As I stood on the stage, gazing at the sea of eyes, I could feel the excitement in the room. The theatre had been completely filled with parents, siblings, relatives, laughter, and tears of joy. One by one, my classmates’ names were called to receive their certificates, along with a handshake and picture with the principal. As I waited, sitting on the edge of my seat, my leg moved up and down, unconsciously. I could not help but smile during the entire ceremony. I knew this moment would be special, but I had never expected it to be like this. The whole auditorium was filled with emotions of pride and happiness, which flowed through the minds of every single individual in the room.
I will never forget the moment Mr. Howard, my principal, said my name with confidence and clarity into the mic. The room cheered, my parents hollered, and my friends applauded. I then walked up onto the stage, towards my principal, who had my certificate in his hands.
“Congratulations, Mr. Johnson!” He says with a genuine smile.
“Thank you,” I managed to respond.
I turned to the audience and the school photographer for a picture and I could hear the loud applause and cheers from my mom. A warm feeling of achievement filled every inch of my body, as I realized I had made my mama proud.
Every successful person in life has one climactic moment in their past, which forged them into the person they are today. Of course, this event may have both negative and positive effects depending on the person. For me, it happened four years ago when I was 14 years old, a freshman in high school.
So, what happened? Well, it was during a soccer game, at a different school. The result would dictate our ability to advance to the next round, thus it was a very important game. I had a great performance, as I scored two goals and assisted one. The other team was very organized and composed, but their team diversity was very different from ours. For example, they had a couple of African American players, as opposed to our team, consisting of all African American players, including me.
After the game, I walked over to the restroom. As I entered, I saw an open urinal and approached it. One of the players on the other team started yelling at me to back off. I asked him what was wrong and he claimed he needed his space and privacy. I really needed to use the urinal, so I tried to ignore him, but before I could react, he turned around and pushed me. I was so surprised because I had no idea what was going on, nor did I know what I had done wrong. Soon two more guys started joining in, screaming and disrespecting me.
But then I realized, not only were these boys angry, they lost the game. But they were infuriated because they ‘lost to a bunch of black kids (in their own words). They called me awful things. They used words no one had ever said to me, especially in the malice, derogatory manner in which they spoke to me.
I sat there, feeling utterly immobile. Everyone thinks they would be able to fight in these situations, as did I, but the way these kids were insulting me, would affect anyone, leaving them devastated on the floor. I sat on the floor, with my head down, wanting to disappear. All I could think about is my desire for them to stop. Finally, they had enough and walked away, chuckling in the cruelest way possible.
As I stood up, I looked at myself in the mirror. A tear had dropped from my left eye. I quickly wiped it off and realized I was not just seeing my physical body, but my whole life, past, and future. . At that moment, I made myself a promise: I will work hard to achieve success in my future, so I will never have to experience disrespect again. This experience, although it was awful, changed my mindset and my entire life in a positive way.