“Christos Anesti Angeliki. Kala esai? ” said the Sunday school teacher Kostadina.
“ Alithos Anesti kai kala.” I responded and took a seat in the swivel chair located in front of the cherry wood conference table. The room filled with more and more Greek kids with smiley and happy faces. My phone which was in my lap buzzed profusely with text messages. Glancing at my teacher and back to my phone
.“ Yo fam, wassup.” The message was from my cousin Kaylee.
I responded with “Wassup fam lol , yo that party last night was to poppin’ dawg. You got super turnt and was drunk all over the place gurl.”
My teacher then asked me to stop texting and to place my phone in a basket located in front of her. She then asked the class “ What did everyone do this weekend?”
We took turns saying out what they did that weekend in a clockwise way. When it finally reached me I simply said “ I went to my cousin’s party and it was pretty fun.” I wondered why I couldn’t say aloud what I had said to my cousin over the phone.
To be honest, I don’t necessarily know how I ended up in a Greek Orthodox Church. When I was younger my grandmother would always bring me to their festival in May. It never really included church in it but it did include kiddie rides like mini rollercoasters and the traditional park favorite the teacups. It also had food, lots and lots of Greek food. I think that’s where I fell in love. A couple of months after that I started to come on Sunday and participate in the worship service with my grandmother. She worked during church in the Narthex passing out beeswax candles to the church’s parishioners. Eventually, when I was 10 I became one of those parishioners and I got baptised in the father, son and Holy Spirit. From there I enrolled myself in many Greek school classes which taught be the native language of the church and I also joined Greek dancing. Although I was in these activities with many Greek children, some my age and some not. I never felt like I was actually being myself. I always felt as if I was being what everyone wanted me to be, sort of like a black Greek girl. If that’s even possible. I think all I ever wished for while being in church was another person that could understand what I was going through. I had a friend who was Guatemalan whose name was Maria, but I feel as if she could still blend in, her skin color wasn’t so easy to spot out.
A quote that really relates to my situation is a quote by Bell Hooks, as used in his essay “ This is the oppressor's language yet I need to talk to you”: Language, a place of struggle. He states “ I was in danger of losing my relationship to black vernacular speech because I rarely use it in predominately white settings.” I tend to code switch often when I am around predominantly white groups of people. I throw it all out the window and act totally different without any consciousness of it, it’s sort of something that just happens to me. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed my miraculous change of voice when I was around everyone. At home I could use “black” language when communicating with friends and various “ghetto” slurs but then when I when I traveled from the quote on quote “ hood” and crossed into the suburban part of town it was as if all of my black language I felt comfortable with at home and school got thrown out of the window and my inner valley girl voice popped out. Maybe I spoke like that around them because maybe I was scared I would sound ignorant but then again why should I be scared, it’s me. I was being myself when I talked to my friends and the people around me who shared the same race but when I was in class surrounded by a different race who probably spoke less slang and more words with an actual Webster Dictionary meaning behind them my voice started to scrunch up into a ball, and I became less vocally expressive then I was everywhere else.
There’s another quote by Richard Rodriguez, and he stated this quote in his essay “ Hunger of Memory” and the quote states “ Like others who know the pain of public alienation, we transformed the knowledge of our public separateness and made it consoling - the remainder of intimacy.” I can relate to this quote very much, I always feel publicly alienated at my church mainly because of my skin color and because of that I don’t have a voice. My “black” language cannot be expressed because I am too scared, scared of being labeled as ignorant and even possibly ignored. I only feel a consolment around my other black friends because I know they wouldn’t judge me or make fun of me. They would understand exactly what was coming out my mouth and the ways I acted, because they probably acted and spoke the same way.
In conclusion, language is something that affects my spiritual and social life because of the fact I cannot express how I really feel in my “black” language when I am with people who don’t speak the same. I just want to be myself everywhere I am, no matter what race I am surrounded by and when I do speak I want to feel comfortable with what I am saying out of my mouth, and I want to be accepted, and not judged or labeled by people because everyone is different and everyone speaks differently than they next person. No one is alike and that is one of the things that makes this world unique.