BROOKLYN STAND-UP. I still remember a time when I was afraid to say that. I was 12-years old in Las Vegas riding the gondola in the Venetian hotel. There was a couple riding with me who asked where I was from and I abruptly said “Manhattan” before my cousin could say, Brooklyn. That was one of the biggest lies I had ever told as a child. My cousin looked at me completely bewildered and later asked why I would tell such a lie. To be honest, I was too ashamed to admit in front of these suburban white people that the two black kids in the gondola with them were from Brooklyn, Manhattan was so much more upscale at the time. The couple serenaded me with questions about city life as I dug myself deeper and deeper into the lie. Brooklyn for me was not a source of pride when I was younger. It represented dodging gunshots at parties and drug dealers on every corner. It was a place that I desperately wanted to escape.

When I returned home from college, so much change took place. There were cute little shops, cultural events and Brooklyn somehow emerged as the center of New York. I fell in love with “my hood” that I took for granted for so many years. My backyard was the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, The Brooklyn Museum, and Prospect Park, landmarks that people travel from all over the world to encounter. Why did it take me so long to realize the value in that?

Brooklyn is my soul. It shaped me into who I am and showed me who I didn’t want to be. This summer the most profound thing happened; not once did I have to leave the comfort of my borough to have fun…Brooklyn became the new Manhattan. From the beer gardens to the beautiful summer nights at the museum, I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I AM BROOKLYN.

A few Sunday’s ago marked the 9th Annual AfroPunk Festival in Commodore Park. My friends and I decided to go and ultimately had a blast. We listened to the funky mixed beats of Quest Love and the hardcore conscious rap of Public Enemy. We danced in the dewy grass and signed petitions to help women in Africa gain better health care. We ate from the fish taco food truck and sipped the foam off of our beer cans. We enjoyed a day of fun in the park while simultaneously the MTV Video Music Awards was going on at the Barclays Center. By 11PM  we didn’t want to go home; we were in Brooklyn during one of it’s biggest nights, ever, so we headed straight to Myrtle avenue to watch the VMAs and listen to the dope 90s musical vibe of Va$htie and Oscar. Never in my wildest dreams would I picture the day when Va$htie would bring her 1992 party out of the Lower East Side and into Brooklyn. As the lyrical flows of Brooklyn rappers, Biggie and Jay Z blasted through the speakers of Brooklyn Tap House, I couldn’t help but feel proud of how far my borough has come. A place that once served as a source of shame was now a source of pride and a name that I  proudly wear across my chest.

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