Girls in the Ghetto: Part One

Girls in the Hood
Untold Stories of Life in the Ghetto: Part One
Cut by: Davita Cuttita

Some (White?) people seem to have a hard time empathizing with Black/Coloured people and their experiences. I guess they don’t watch enough BET or are just actually looking for the truth so here, on Pregnant Drug-Dealing Prostitutes, I, Mistress Davita Cuttita will present to you the Untold Stories of my life in the ghetto. I don’t want your pity or apologies, just read.

‘Cuz you’ll never find this real shit in a text book, trust.

IN THE BEGINNING….

My mother was twenty-seven years old when she came to Canada. I was nearing my second birthday and she was pregnant with my sister. She couldn’t afford a suitcase and we were forced to carry our few clothes in plastic bags. I don’t remember it, but it was the first time we saw snow as we arrived from our tropical home in Jamaica to a strange land on the coldest month of the entire year: February.

Her mother, a widower, had sent for her from Toronto, Ontario after working odd jobs and nursing for twenty years. Her husband died when my mother was still a baby, and she left Jamaica for work in the “Great” North to support her family of five children as well as two orphans she’d taken in off the streets. My fifteen year old aunt was left to spend the money she sent back and raise them all by herself.

My mother had a highschool education upon arrival; going to post-secondary was something not many Jamaicans could not and still cannot afford. She shared a two bedroom apartment with her mother (before she left two years or so later, back to Jamaica to retire).

I remember it. All we had was one queen sized bed, which we shared (with my grandma and aunt till she found somewhere), as well as an old stove and fridge we rented from the apartment Supervisor.

She tried working all sorts of jobs as my sister grew larger in her uterus. She worked low-paying factory jobs or maid jobs, where she took much verbal abuse and scorn. However, there wasn’t much else she could do—my sister would be arriving soon and rent needed to be paid.

Luckily, she was able to land a job as a PSW (Personal Support Worker) in a nursing home after my sister was born. She couldn’t drive so she’d take the train, then the bus and walk twenty minutes up the twirling hills to the home. It was all right in the summers but during the winter nights when she had to walk up and back down in the darkness of night, my mother would cry—her thin jacket was all she could afford after rent, food, clothing and babysitting expenses. She would come home cold…wiping away at the defrosting tears on her cheeks and trembling for warmth.

Since we didn’t have a table, my mother, toddler sister and I would all sit on the floor in a circle and eat. My mother was a very quiet woman then and extremely shy. She hadn’t made any friends in Canada yet (she did occassionally spend time with my other 3 uncles and an aunt ) so we were all she had. I recall enjoying those times dining on the floor and it was only a matter of time before she was able to afford a table, a stand and a small television right before Christmas.

“No more eating on the floor, Mommy?” I asked.

“No, baby,” she said “No more eating on the floor.”

My babysitter was Pakistani, she cared for my sister and I amongst her own two daughters while my mother worked evening or even night shifts at the home, cleaning shit and vomit, getting kicked, changing adult diapers and being called a nigger every step of the way by some of her nastier White patients still clinging to “the good ol’ days”.

My sister couldn’t speak yet but at two going on three, naturally, I was extremely well versed in my mother tongue of Jamaican patois and picking up the Urdu my sitter spoke to her own children.

One day, as I was talking to my mother she looked at me and said “From now on, you will learn English and only speak to me in English. If you don’t learn English, I won’t talk to you.”

I took up watching Sesame Street religiously and any other show on television. “Cheers”, “The Price is Right”, “Baywatch”—it didn’t matter. It was only a matter of time before I could speak “proper” English, although it too was still laced with my mother tongue. For 19 years, I held onto this memory. What could compel her to say something so cruel to such a young child? I asked her when I got older and she told me of a job interview in which the employer heavily and negatively criticized the Bob Marley-esque accent peppering her English (which she desperately tried to cover at all times away from home, still does). They wouldn’t give her the job. She didn’t want people to think I was stupid or ignorant, she responded; or make fun of me like some of the other nurses at her workplace.

When I was about four or five, my father was able to make his way over to Canada. By then, we also had three couches to go along with the table, stand and television. My sister and I were also fortunate enough to have separate beds.

By first grade, at the age of six, I was a part of the ESL (English as a Second Language) program becoming, ironically; assimilated into the Canadian Mosaic. To this day, I still have little bits and pieces of my Jamaican accent in my speech; sometimes people notice, sometimes they don’t. My mother couldn’t understand my high grades in English, bibliophilia and subsequent replacement into “regular” classes while I still retained my accent; we would argue about it frequently. She wanted it gone.

“Assimilation!” my seven year old self would yell at her, “I’m not going to assimilate!”

STORIES…

Nigger.

When was the first time someone called me a nigger?

I believe I was seven or eight years old. I was at the local pool in the basement of my apartment building wading in the shallow end by myself when I saw a tom boyish, red-head chubby little girl go onto the deck to cannonball in. We were the same age. I wasn’t in her way or anything and I’d seen her a few times before in the elevator.

We didn’t argue, nor did we know eachother past perhaps names. We hardly even talked. All I remember her saying before the jump was “What do you know? You’re just a nigger!

That same year, I took my baby brother to the park to swing. The older kids liked to mess them up by tying them to the top bar so they were completely unusable. Only one swing was left and a brunnette White lady was pushing her daughter in it (who seemed to be about five or six). I stood away patiently waiting and waiting then checked my Mickey Mouse watch—twenty minutes had elapsed since I’d arrived with my little brother. Did she see us standing at the other end of the swing set? I wasn’t sure so politely, I approached the woman and said “Excuse me, Miss. Will you be done with the swing soon?”

The woman looked at me scornfully and replied “The swings weren’t made to be used by people like you!” and continued pushing her daughter harder and higher into the sky.

Remembering my father’s explanation (and griping) about taxes, I said “Well, everybody pays taxes so that means I can use the swing too!”

The woman gave me a venomous look, I suppose she wanted me to drop dead but I just stood there, waiting for the swing anyway. She yanked the chains and her daughter halted immediately. She grabbed her daughter and left in a huff.

Again, I was only eight years old so all I thought was “Yay” and put my little bro-bro into the swing. He was so happy but my little arms got tired quickly and away we went, walking through the park, enjoying the sunlight. Perhaps “Sailor Moon” would be on by the time I got home…

In our area of gun-shots, broken bottles, used condoms and drug-addiction, White people were few and far between (the population was mainly newly immigrated Blacks, South Indians and Asians). Chances were that if you had a racist experience with a White person, you’d never see them again. We were very close to downtown Toronto so they were probably just passing through.

Although there were some extremely nice White people such as one everyone nick-named “Dog Man” because he was always walking his dog and stopping to chat. He offered directions to anyone lost and offered toys to the poor Coloured children (pretty much any kid he knew, haha) at Christmas time, including yours truly, and taught us things about dogs. He never objected to that nickname; sounds like it could be the title of a DMX track to me but anyway…

I was becoming aware that I was somehow, different.

All of us Coloured children were; together.

It was only a matter of time before the violence would come for us.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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~ by davitacuttita on June 18, 2008.

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