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Writing to Heal

For those of you who read the last blog post, you must now be thinking, "Wow Hedda! That's great! Mr. Richie got you some friends and now you're not so lonely in New York!" And that's where I'll gladly stop you.

Take a moment to consider that that's almost exactly the premise of Mr. Richie reaching out to these people that I didn't know. I'm not exactly sure what he said to them, but I mean, the reason I was meeting these people pretty much came down to the fact that my dad had died.

Despite my internal uneasiness about that, it really wasn't all so bad. In fact, in meeting up with Tunde, one of the first people Mr. Richie introduced me to over text, I almost forgot about it.

I'd heard Mr. Richie talk about Tunde before, saying that he'd graduated from Yale and was now also at Columbia so at least he was probably somewhere around my age. We confirmed a date and time and on the day of, I hopped off the bus to meet Tunde in front of Harlem Public. I didn't know what to expect, but he was a lot taller than I thought he would be, maybe 6'2 or 6'3. Sigh. It's sometimes awkward meeting people that much taller than you when you're 4'11.5, but Tunde went in for a hug and managed to make me feel right at home.

Shortly thereafter we managed to get a table inside and made some small talk. He was also from Oakland and had gone to a different high school than I had, but still knew more students who attended my school than I did. Of course. I am far from claiming to have been a popular kid in high school, so it doesn't actually bother me but still just a little embarrassing.

We got to talking about how he came to Columbia to study journalism. He was interested in the workings of the media. I had actually written my honors thesis on the media's impact on American involvement in and opinion of the Vietnam War. It had been a long time since I’d talked about the Vietnam War with anyone. He told me that he was working on writing his own book which would require him to reflect on how he grew up: Oakland, his siblings, Rastafarianism, his dad.

"Wow, that's… really hard."

I was impressed. I admire people who are true writers. The ones who take the time not only to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), but to deeply consider how their world experiences have shaped them while simultaneously forging a future worthy of remembrance. He told me about how impressive his dad was, and though I felt a pang of envy that he could still talk to his dad, I realized as we sat in that café that it was exactly one month since my dad had passed. We were talking about history, and my dad loved history. What were the odds?

After we parted ways, he sent me his article that had been published in The Atlantic and asked for my thoughts. I was touched that he was interested in what I'd have to say.

Though sometimes I'm unsure of why I started to write out these stories, I think it's important to record memories, to remember. There was a lot that he and I did not know about our ancestry because of the hard truths of American history. I told Tunde that his story was important to tell and for people to know and I meant it. If I venture to write my own story, maybe that means that I could one day be as brave as he.

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