“When I think of home, I think of a place where there’s love overflowing.”
Around this time last year, I had the great fortune of taking part in MUSKET’s “The Wiz,” before the production was canceled due to COVID-19. As a member of the ensemble, I got to work with an amazing group of insanely talented artists, performing alongside an all-Black cast in a show that celebrates African-American culture in all its glory. And while the experience was cut short, I have long since remembered the sense of belonging, communion and intimacy fostered during the rehearsal process, all of which was epitomized in the finale, Dorothy’s final number (sung by the phenomenal University of Michigan alum Lauryn Hobbs) “Home.”
Famously performed by Stephanie Mills on Broadway and by Diana Ross in the film adaptation, this R&B soul ballad, in all its lyrical genius, is a powerful expression of the all-encompassing love that being home engenders.
As I traveled back home to Kalamazoo, Mich. this weekend to visit family and friends and to celebrate my upcoming 20th birthday, I reflected on this sentiment in the best way I knew how: driving.
In the midst of running errands, finishing tasks and visiting friends, I ended up driving in my hometown for a short but considerable part of my visit. And while I drove past the places and spaces that I had literally known all my life, I thought about how many times I had traversed these same roads in Kalamazoo –– day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
I thought about the hundreds of early morning commutes to school — talk radio radiating to where I was sitting in the backseat of my dad’s car on the way to elementary school, headphones hampering the loud chatter of the school bus on the way to middle school, car speakers spewing my favorite musical theatre songs on the aux of my 2006 Toyota Scion on the way to high school.
I thought about the many, many miles made on my way to club meetings and class trips, football games and food runs, soccer practices and Sunday school lessons, hair appointments and hook-ups, musical rehearsals and movie outings.
I thought about the times I traveled down the freeway to friends who would be strangers further along the road, to sites I swear I’ll never see again and to scenes I still seek to see once more.
I thought about the summer sunsets at the land preserve, the autumn outings to the Art Hop, the winter rides watching holiday lights and the spring sprints down the infinite fields.
I thought about the good times — the windows rolled down and the sun soaked up. The small talk on the long rides.
I thought about the bad times — the breakdowns in the backseat and the tears wiped in front of the wheel.
I thought about the persisting poverty, the rampant racism and the continued class divides. The streets that make the headlines and the lines of homeless encampments along the streets.
I thought about the revolutionary resilience of those resisting tyranny in my community, the divine camaraderie of those combatting capitalism in its late stages and the liberating love keeping Kalamazoo afloat.
I thought about how so much around me had changed, yet how so much has stayed the same. How much I’ve changed and how much I’ve stayed the same.
I thought a lot about how having lived so long in one town has yielded within me a cacophony of contradictions and an assortment of antithetical attitudes.
But most of all, while driving in my hometown, I thought about how after years and years of yearning for something more, vowing to venture out into the great unknown, how grateful I am to not only be able to call this place home, but to have a home, and for it to serve as a real life reminder of the miles and miles of memories I’ve made throughout my time on this Earth.
Because just like Dorothy’s final line in the finale goes, “I’ve learned that we must look inside our hearts to find a world so full of love like yours, like mine, like home.”
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