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2016 Convention Stories

Away from the Daze of Delta Heat

Crystal StoneCrystal Stone
2014-2015 Eastern Student Representative
Alpha Mu Epsilon Chapter
Allegheny College, Meadville, PA

Stepping outside the convention hotel on Thursday, I saw snow for the first time in almost a year. In June 2015, I made the decision to relocate myself from the snowy New York City metro area to the warm humidity of the Mississippi delta. I didn’t know then I would learn to kill mosquitoes with bare hands and cover drinks when bug trucks sprayed outside in open air. I hadn’t yet seen the layered sunrise over cotton fields. I hadn’t yet learned there was a right and wrong side of the railroad tracks or that my students would wonder if I was mixed because of my “nappy” hair.

Story Picture

Fast forward to March and I finally found myself away from sunny Mississippi in Minneapolis, excited to see familiar faces. People from a culture I understood. I anticipated new friends, new books, new stories: the usual convention pleasures.

On Thursday morning, Minadora and I went on a walk for a bite to eat before attending presentations. “I am a black man in white America,” A man yelled sternly, looking toward us but not making eye contact. “In 1999, a Klan member told me…” We looked at each other. Then, our food. We tried to make small talk. “You can have some of my tomatoes,” She offered.

Unlike my students, this man didn’t speculate at my heritage. While my students are always advising me to wear nicer shoes so I don’t “show the struggle,” this man saw me for what I was: a white northern woman with privileges. Privileges to look for home in different places of the country. To assume debts. To get maybe impractical degrees. To come to snowy Minneapolis for a week to talk about poetry and drink wine with new and old friends. To leave when the frustration became sneers, “You ugly, disgusting white people.”

Back at the hotel, safety. I found myself at home by the fireplace of the frigid north. Here, I experienced companionship I hadn’t felt in months. Inspiration for new poems. The realization that Mississippi might not be comfortable and might never be home, but I do have a home I can come return to once a year to escape the uncomfortable otherness I feel every day in my new life.