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I Too Can Sing

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After the concert, and the unsuspecting line of singers lined up in the back to form an assembly line,
I snuck towards the door, but was stopped by an elderly lady.

“You have such a nice voice,” she began, while reaching for my hand, “such a lovely voice.”

“Thank you,” I began, already anticipating thanking her for coming to the concert and for giving me a compliment. She waved her small, white hand in front of me as if to shush me, and I stopped midsentence, a small “tha…” coming out of my mouth.

“…it must have been really hard for you to learn those other songs though,” she continued. “A lot of practice to learn those classical ones, huh?”

My mouth continued to hang open as I sat amazed.
“It must have been really hard…”

It. Must. Have. Been.

My mind spun instantaneous wisecracks to throw back at her but,
I bit my tongue until it bled and slowly counted to ten before thanking her for coming to the performance.

I too, can sing songs that are not spirituals.
I too can project more music than a throaty spiritual or a festive folk song.

I too, count.

As I was ushering, an elderly man proudly proclaimed loudly,
“Look at that Negro girl trying to help others,” and I dipped my head and forced a smile.

I too, can assist others to where they belong.
I too, am important.

I too, count.

After he asked me when I came to the states from Kenya and if I knew that most of “my race ends up in prison,”
I smiled and claimed I needed a tissue.

I actually just needed to cry.

Please don’t define me by all of the
Stereotypes and plastic boxes that I am so often trapped in.

Please,
Because I am not defined my color.
I am defined by me: Bonita Chaim.




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