Last night I went to see DOPE, the Sundance favorite film by Ricky Famuyiwa. DOPE is about Malcolm, a 90’s loving geek that lives in Inglewood with his single mom. He is a smart kid and is working toward getting into college when he gets mixed up with a neighborhood drug dealer Dom, played by A$AP Rocky. Even with all of this going on, he was still trying to talk to Nakia, played by Zoe Kravitz. We are taken on a journey with Malcolm and his two friends that include drugs, gunshots, and dope fashion. Through this journey, he discovers that he is more than a black kid that grew up in “the bottom”. Through this journey there was a lot of laughter, but it was engulfed in the realities that many young kids growing up in the hood face. Aside from the dynamic storyline, the music was on point. There were a lot of originals by Pharrell and even a song from Watch the Duck. While watching the movie, I felt a wave of nostalgia come over me when they showed shots of the city. The story was set in Inglewood, CA, the place I called home during my pre-teen summers and holidays.
When I was in elementary school, my dad left Detroit and moved to California. As a kid, vacationing in California was an adventure. My sister and I rarely left Detroit, so being across the country was exciting and genuinely felt like a vacation. After a couple of years that excitement died down, and going to California felt like going home. The summer before I turned 13 and my sister was turning 15, my dad moved to Inglewood near Centinela and La Cienega. Moving to a new apartment was exciting for us because that meant that we would have our own room, a pool, and right next door there were a group cute of teenage boys. Our apartment buildings were so close that we could talk over the balcony. Everyday was interesting that summer. We were old enough to explore the neighborhood, and felt comfortable enough to create friendships. Each day we would wake up and see if our new friends were outside. If they were, we would talk to them over the balcony, if not, we would go swimming until we heard a splash from their pool next door. Soon, we got comfortable enough to invite them to our pool and on our balcony.
Beyond the gates of the apartment, we weren’t blind to the neighborhood that we were in. We knew that we couldn’t walk down certain streets without our dad, we knew that if we wore blue in our neighborhood that people would stare us down, and we very quickly found out that even the wrong colored bathing suit would cause people to question our intentions. Even a walk to the store wasn’t always safe. That summer and the summer after were among the most memorable times I had growing up. When we weren’t at the apartment, we frequented the beauty/barbershop where my dad got his hair cut, bought new shoes from the swap meet, and went to the Magic Johnson movie theater. We hung out with our “California cousins”, wrote and recorded rap songs, and journaled about what we were missing back home. Living in California both freed me, and made me hyper aware. After the second summer in Inglewood, we had grown sick of spending our summers away from Detroit. My sister was going into her senior year of high school, and I had recently started dating my high school boyfriend. The boys from next door weren’t as cute anymore, and some had moved away. Eventually our protests worked and my dad moved back to Detroit when I went off to college.
Spending my summers and holidays in California are a major part of my story. The ages 11-17 are when we change and grow the most, and each time I came back to Detroit I was a new person. I’ve always considered California a second home, and maybe I’ll end up back there one day. Until then, I have a ton of memories, journal entries, and pictures to soothe my nostalgia.