Where I'm From

Where I'm From - Digable Planets

"Peace peace peace y'all!
(Strange!) Real strange real strange
(An overdose) A nickel bag of funk
(We got beat!!)
Now move on move on yeah
("Hey man are you ready to go?") Yeah

Boogie jive and rap is life where I'm from
Where I'm from, I might play with Izzy where I'm from
Where I'm from, it be like, "run your coat black"
Jupiter, keeps her fat beats by the pack
Where I'm from, nappy hair is life
We be reading Marx where I'm from
The kids be rockin' Clarks where I'm from
You turn around your cap, you talk over a beat
and dig some sounds boomin' out a jeep
Where I'm from, cocoons hide the youth, swoon units hundred proof
You want some beef, they will cut you some
Where I'm from, the beats is infinite where I'm from
Voodoo, ashubani,…"

I am from a conglomeration of all of the places that I have lived or visited; far too many to name here. But where I was born is a whole other story.  Orangeburg, SC (my hometown) is the home of  two Historically Black Universities; Claflin University (1869) and South Carolina State University (1896).  And this matters because it means that getting an education is a central theme in the city of ~14,000 people of whom  approximately 75% are African American.  One of my uncles (Dr. Johnnie J. Jenkins, Jr) was a chemistry professor at SCSU where I spent lots of time in his lab observing experiments and learning to conduct my own.  I don't remember exactly what chemical reactions he was trying to show me but I do remember using litmus paper to test the pH of different liquids. The tiny sheets of paper would change color when dipped into different common liquids.  These activities were so much fun for me as a kid.  But in actuality, I just really liked spending time with my super smart uncle who indulged my intellectual curiosity.  He also took me to the library on campus to check out books on science and nature.  Its no wonder that I am turned out to be a scientist too.

Back to my hometown.  Orangeburg features the North Edisto River (blackwater river, 150 miles long) which flows southeast to the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston, SC.  It is also the home of the Edisto Memorial Gardens (established in the 1920's) which is famous for its roses and over 4,800 plants.  The annual rose festival is held every Mother's Day to showcase the award winning flowers.  Growing up, my family  would often go to the gardens on our weekly Sunday afternoon drive. We would walk through the gardens and along the river on the board walk.  In addition to the roses, there were beautiful trees with strange moss that swayed in the breeze.  Sometime my mom would gather the Spanish Moss to put in her shoes; this folk remedy is said to lower blood pressure.  This is just one remedy I learned about as a kids --- I will write about others later.  Back to the gardens.  in addition to our weekly visits, we came to the gardens on many occasions for parties, picnics and weddings.  I also played tennis at the two courts in the upper garden area but we were not allowed to swim in the black waters due to the strong currents.  And I am glad we didn't as there are also numerous snakes in the river including the aggressive water moccasin.  A couple of years ago, I went for a run along the river and saw several snakes from a distance.  Maybe one day I will go canoeing on this beautiful river but swinging from one of those ropes and jumping into the river will never happen.  Especially since it is easy to travel to Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Hilton Head Island or Savannah GA to enjoy the ocean.  All of  these beautiful cities are within 2 hours of Orangeburg.  Some might say that growing up in a small town is boring but I had many great experiences in the outdoors there with my family.  We took full advantage of the beauty around us that helped to shape me into the person I have become.  I am proud to be from Orangeburg, SC and I am sure my ancestors would be proud too as I stand on the shoulders of greatness.