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Most of my life I have been looking for an escape from reality.

A missing link in my life made it seem incredibly unsatisfying, and at times still seems unsatisfying. I wanted more needed more - but I was stationary. I could not get away, could not remove myself from the situations that were not worthy of my reality. As a community of people, I believe we all deserve better than what the world says it can offer us. Too many times we often feel inadequate and defeated; even though most of us will find a way to pick ourselves back up, the truth is we all deserve a better reality. Thus, I was determined to find these better realities, and if not better, then much different from my own, and literacy was my escape. Being literate gave me the drive to pick up books and read, which in turn allowed me to escape to other worlds, countries, homes, schools, and then I watched as literacy shaped my friends, parents, and perspectives. I was finally able to view the world at a grand scale, or even escape the world all together and travel to far away locations. However, every time I escaped, I knew I had to come back to reality eventually, except each time, I had a power no one else seemed in interested in knowledge. With the knowledge I gained through reading I could think better of myself, my reality, and my future. At times I felt as though success was impossible when I was surrounded by so many talented people or people who wanted me to fail; however, my knowledge gained from my literacy caused me to realize that I would be able to excel to succeed- with what I learned. Naturally, it took years for me to understand that no matter how others view you, you can still achieve a multitude of accomplishments, all beginning with a will to be literate. No one in my life made it their job to constantly validate me to gain self-worth, which I was thankful for. No one can do that for someone, so one has to learn to find value in their lives themselves. I am a firm believer that one can gain self-worth in the skills he or she has to offer. However, how does one enhance or train these skills that he or she may or may not be naturally talented in? Literacy

will either be ones foundation for skill or the tool that sharpens that skill. Personally, I had to discover that I had skills that I could offer and those skills were shaped and trained through my educational literacy. Through my insatiable need to discover new ideas I taught myself, and was taught by others, how to become culturally, artistically, and educationally literate, which in turn helped me to stop viewing literacy has an escape, but more as a power of knowledge that I could use in my everyday activities. My need for literacy to help me escape and then empower me started at a young age. Being seemingly more diverse than my peers in Elementary school, who preferred to live quietly in their own spheres of limitation, I discovered that diversity had its flaws I no longer seemed to fit in what was the standard of my own black culture. Although my Elementary school was quite diverse, students there seemed to promote views that were much bigger than themselves. After all, what 7 year old consciously knows the difference between white culture versus black culture? Most likely they picked up views of how a certain race of people should behave from their parents. I did not fit well into those general standards, because my parents and my older sister helped to instill in me a desire to reach for more than what was expected of me because of my race. My parents and my sister, being much older than me, had discovered the value of literacy, and in turn their literacy allowed them to become diverse and capable of demonstrating diversity in our household. I am not saying that the parents of those children I grew up with were illiterate; perhaps they just chose to ignore one of the simple facts that literacy can bring someone diversity. Literacy allows one, through exploration of different texts, genres, and ideologies, to become open to various perspectives usually. At this particular point in my life, I had no idea what I was promoting (just like every other child who imitates those in their household). I was only aware of the fact that culturally, I

could not fit in with other black students (at least those who were unwilling to understand why I was terribly different). I did not realize it yet, but these were the years where I built a foundation of cultural literacy. By immersing myself in various television programs, musical artists, and traditions (not just limiting my entertainment to what is directed to my particular race), I was able to become literate in various cultures and become aware of my cultural literacy. After a time I realized I could no longer connect with my black culture, but because of my awareness of being culturally literate, I thought that I could easily slide into another culture if I wanted, which once I went to Middle School was what I planned to do. In a Middle School that was predominantly black, I sought out other ethnicities and nationalities separate from my own. I thought that by adopting their culture, adopting their language, and pretending to be of their race I could be connected with another cultural identity since I was abandoned by my culture. I developed a love of cultural and an understanding of why and how people interact with others from different ethnic backgrounds. Through my interactions with others I have come to appreciate all other societies and learn to not be overly judgmental when I do not understand someone elses way of life. Eventually after much time, I came to reaccept the black culture, but it no longer held a supreme standing in my life. I had evolved so much during that time that I no longer identified with one culture anymore; I could no longer be singularly identified by another as one specific culture, because I was everything wrapped into one. Now that I had a foundation for a love of discovering new cultures, I felt a need to expand my connection with other cultures. Consequently, my artistic literacy was born. Becoming artistically literate helped me to escape to an illustrated world that I could create all on my own. I usually drew Japanese style comics because I had a strong connection with the

Japanese culture. The connection was built from being submerged in learning of Japanese culture from books, music, television programs, and movies. That love eventually developed into a desire to draw in a similar style and create stories that were set in Japan. Doing this took me as far away from the everyday problems in each of us face in life. One may think, How many problems could a Middle School student face?, but somehow trouble found its way to my doorstep. I no longer felt distant from my peers (since I was able to find others who understood me), but I felt disillusioned with life in general. Using my artistic literacy, I could draw brand new worlds and get lost in those fantastical dreams, which helped me to deal with my troubles and general dissatisfaction with life. At this time, not only was I connecting with a different culture, but I could create a reality completely different from mine, yet I was still in total control. Once my artist literacy grew into other forms, the art taught me to think abstractly, come up with original ideas, and become a creative person. There is great deal of power that comes with discovering that I had developed a talent - that I was actually skilled in doing - and could apply in other aspects of my life. I had the power to create separate worlds for myself in the form of art and could develop a truly deep appreciate for the hard work and craft that goes into another artists pieces. Although my cultural literacy and artistic literacy seemed to be obvious to me early in life, I did not recognize how important my historical literacy was to me until my High School career. As I mentioned before, I often sought out an escape from the ugliness of the world through immersing myself in various forms of books. Through books, I could become someone else, or experience the life of another from his or her eyes. Being a lover of fiction books and a lover various cultures meant it was only a matter of time before I ran across historical fiction novels. Not only did these books feed my addiction for an escape to different worlds, but it

also secretly empowered me with the knowledge of issues that people around world could actually be facing. To this day, I remember the first historical fiction book I ever picked up was in fifth grade and it was entitled, When Hitler Stole White Rabbit. The story focused on a little Jewish girl who, with her family, fled from Germany and occupied France during World War II. Back then, I was vaguely aware Holocaust was, but the full depth of this event did not begin to sink into my mind until the day I read that book. And since then, the Holocaust has been one of the subjects in history that I find terribly interesting. What affect can one simple low reading level book have on ones life? For me, it set the tone for me to continue to research what was going on in the world that I was actually in. I put down a few of my fiction books and began to read historically accurate personal accounts, I mentally devoured the history books that were given to me in Middle School, and by High School I was having debates about international politics with some of my most astute teachers. It was my junior year that I realized that I had finally taken an interest in the world around me, and not just the made up worlds of my fiction novels and drawings. I knew that through researching and learning about what was going around in the world around me (no matter how seemingly trivial) I would be able to gain serious knowledge, and in turn gain the power to develop new skills. My historical literacy and taught me that there is a world bigger than my backyard, and grander than my imaginative world; my historical literacy taught me that I could be a part of something greater, just by reading up on anythings and anyones past and present history. Literacy to the world is single minded, one tracked, and full of strings attached, all to benefit others. Looking passed all the hypocrisy and ulterior motives of the world, theres a personal reason for one to be literate. The will to become literate should be based off what the

individual expects to learn and how he or she expects to succeed with this new knowledge. Sometimes one does not expect to learn anything from his or her literacy, much like how I did not expect anything from my historical literacy, however, my other forms of literacy helped me to utilize my historical literacy as a tool to achieve and not just as an escape (as I had done with my previous forms of literacy). The desire to escape reality had its own merits, as it gave me a reason to become literate in various forms. Once I learned to be comfortable with myself in my cultural literacy and artistic literacy, I was finally able ready to reach for much grander goals in the real world.