In the streets of Sanford (Fla.), we grew up calling our little city “Bokey.” The word means “home” and was coined after post-Civil War Reconstruction when Black migrant workers would say they were going back to Bokey when heading home to Sanford.
Here we say that this is a place where everybody knows everybody. All who live here have all always lived here. Initially the feeling one gets when hearing this is that there must be a sense of community. There must be unity and togetherness within our neighborhoods.
There has always been a comfort in knowing that nothing here is unfamiliar. Yet when we speak of this connection and familiarity with one another, it isn’t said with a sense of pride. The words shake with frustration and a deep-rooted feeling of suffocation.
The reality is that Sanford has become a closed-door cage, a place in which a man settles and his descendants expand no further for the next six generations. A place that harbors a stagnated existence where we are always desperately reaching for a breath of air.
The options are slim for us. Sanford is a bottomless pit, but this isn’t a unique story. I now understand that Sanford is no more than a prime model of the Black experience throughout the entire United States. The Black experience in America has been a bottomless pit.
Like many in this nation, I have lost brothers whose goal to make a living wage and be a provider landed them in the prison system on trumped-up marijuana charges – the same marijuana that created a new industry with skyrocketing profits.
I have watched sisters struggle to be full-time students because they were forced to work
multiple jobs to pay for their education. I have felt the concerns of being a Black parent loathing the day I, too, will have to have the talk with my daughter about the nightmare of being Black in America. Not all of us get to read our children fairy tales; their innocence comes at a price.
Racism in school
The feelings that come with being Black are not just felt in the presence of the flashing lights that haunt me, but in the moments I would walk the halls of my school and be called horrible racial slurs by people in MAGA hats. The same students who called me these names at protests would be the people I would have to sit next to in class, knowing that if they could have it their way, I wouldn’t be alive to tell these stories.
When my father passed in 2016, I experienced a surge of violence against me just for living in this skin. I had no one to tell me what to expect with this new regime.
From Sanford to the burial home in Ohio, the Black experience was the same. Not only did the current president preach this behavior; he also took pride in bringing back sentiments we were all told ended after desegregation. I forgot the pit was this deep!
In Sanford, the inequality is felt in our homes and in our pockets. Our median income is half of our neighboring city, Lake Mary. Twenty-two percent of us live below the poverty line. Our unemployment rate is double the national average.
These conditions can all change with the policies that Bernard Sanders is bringing to the table.
He will eliminate college tuition and student debt. Black women have the highest amount of student loan debt and earn the least when in the job sector. Bernard has plans to close the wealth gap by funding our education system and raising teachers’ pay to a guaranteed $60,000 a year.
Finally the possibility that our young ones can actually strive for their dreams without having to compromise their education for dead-end jobs. He is providing the means to reform the system that has given us all sleepless nights.
Bernard Sanders is not our savior, but he is our platform to ensure change. His message helps us imagine a life where our basic necessities are met. Theft and burglary are the main reason for arrest rates in Sanford, a statistic that would drop if we were living with our basic necessities met.
Hope for the future
Bernard is giving hope to our children and the coming generations. He promises a world we wish we had been able to dream of, but were too busy losing sleep trying to get by. He legalize marijuana and expunge prior marijuana convictions. He will ensure that the money from legal marijuana is reinvested into communities that were affected by the ‘War on Drugs.’
This means a new life for so many of our loved ones who were told they’ll never see the light of day. He will ensure that those affected by these harsh policies will have educational opportunities for either trade school or training resources to start their own businesses.
Bernard resonates with our history and was fighting with us in the civil rights movement and is the only candidate who continues to fight for these same freedoms. He fought for universal healthcare when socialist values could land you in jail. He acknowledges that the solutions are deeply rooted in systemic change.
A critical time
I support Bernie Sanders for president in 2020 because this pit has finally been opened by his ideas. There is no way we will survive like this for another generation.
This game we are on our way to winning needs to be played our way. On February 22 at Coastline Park, 900 W. Ninth Street in Sanford, we are having a “Bokey for Bernie” 3-on-3 basketball tournament. This will be a great opportunity to connect with our community at a deeper level with Freedom Sessions being hosted. Each player on the winning team will win a $50 gift card.
This will be a family-friendly event and a great way to encourage our young ones to have fun and shoot some hoops. Food will be served, so come early on Saturday, February 22 at 12 p.m.
Dashawn DeBose is a Sanford native.