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A First-Generation Story

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Autumn Boucher interviewed Bianca Bryant about her family, being a first-generation student, loss, and new life.

I grew up in two places. I started my early childhood in Inkster, Michigan, which used to be kinda like a Black suburb that has always been segregated its whole duration. My parents were a mixed relationship in the 1970s; my mother was an African American woman and my father was Spanish and Mexican. But at the time, he looked like a Caucasian male, so at that time people only saw black and white. My mama was nervous to ask her father if she could marry my daddy. But when she did he replied with, “Black man spit on the floor, I clean it up; white man spit on the floor, I still clean it up.” This spoke volume because her dad was a janitor. Unfortunately there was a lot of discrimination of my parents, and they didn’t think this was the safest environment even for us because we were mixed children. It’s crazy to think because this was in the 1980’s. My parents decided to move.

I came from a big family. My mother was the youngest of 13 children, and I have 44 cousins. We essentially left all of her siblings and her parents in Inkster. We didn’t have choice; we had to make a sacrifice to live a better life. We did visit frequently.

My family moved to Southfield, Michigan, because father wanted to more to a different environment that was more diverse, safer for out family, and had better opportunities. For my 3 siblings and I, coming to Southfield was like coming to the country. We went from a really small home to a little suburban area with a lot of land. Also, we lived closer to Farmington Hills, where it was more peaceful. I know when people think of Southfield they think of I-696 and 12 Mile Road, but that wasn’t the case for us. It was a new life for our family.

Later on, my journey continued. During my first year of college at Central Michigan University, my parents moved to Texas. That was my hardest transition because I was the baby of the family, and now my immediate family was leaving me. They left in 2007, during the financial crisis. They actually lost their house to foreclosure, and my sister bought them a house in Texas. I didn’t make a smart decision after this, but I definitely don’t regret it.

It was my sophomore year and I was working in the graduate office. I was so homesick. Everyone was going home for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t missing Southfield; I was just missing my parents, especially my mama. I was jealous of every kid in the world complaining they had to go home for holidays and all this stuff. I hopped into my 1994 Toyota Corolla, didn’t bring nothing to sleep in, and just straight up left. I just needed to see my parents. I called my mom all the time; I was actually on the phone with her the time i showed up. I remember her saying “ Hold on honey someone’s knocking on the door.” It turned out to be me. I needed them; I needed to physically hold my mama. Sometimes you hit a breaking point in life where you need to be with the people who know you best, that care for you, and love you.

I only saw them once a year, at Christmas. That’s all I could afford. Maybe I would take the train to Chicago, and go stay with some friends for Thanksgiving, but that was it. I was broke in college. But in the end, you do what you can.

My life is so different now. I am a first-generation college student; my parents never went to college. I think my life was really different because of the fact that they really pushed education. They didn’t know what to do with it; they just told me to go to college. They knew something would come of it. Growing up as a first-generation college student, there were unfortunately financial disadvantages. Through this, I have gained autonomy and problem-solving skills. My parents did the best they could to better the next generation. The journey is not over.

As I got older, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I went to her chemo treatments. She would always be wearing her high knee boots, and be the happiest woman. Nothing stopped her from being herself. She once said to me, “ If I’m going to die, I might as well do it looking good.” I was pregnant at the time, so she tried her best to keep moving to meet him. Unfortunately, she passed away at 60, three months before my son was born. He was a blessing that came to me when I felt like everything was crumbling. Shortly after, my father passed. I didn’t want this for him, but he knew that he did his job as a parent. I knew he wanted to see Mama. This happened two years ago, so it’s still new, but I manage to keep smiling by thinking of the happy, beautiful people my parents always were. Mama was my person; after she left, I was given my son. Everything happens for a reason. My son came at a time when I needed him the most. Mama and daddy are together now. Even though it feels like they are so far away, I feel like they are still all so close. This is my journey so far; it doesn’t end here.

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