Growing up isn’t easy. Especially if you don’t know who you are. Even when I was little I never felt comfortable with who I was. I was always playing a part. Or maybe that isn’t right. No, it was more that I lived my life dictated by the books I read, the films I saw and the TV shows I watched. I felt they told me how you should live or how life should be. I could drive my family crazy by pretending to be one of these characters for days, months sometimes. I thought they were who I should be. It was quite difficult as no matter how hard I tried I could not be a light skinned blond kid. I am Jewish and black, quite a difference. Still I tried my hardest at being someone I thought was better than me. My mum went along with it, not wanting to upset me, but also encouraged me to develop my own creative side. I was great at making up stories, could sing and act.
I got bullied at school from a very young age, for being different. I never felt “different” I was just being who I thought I was supposed to be and behaving that way. I can understand it a little now. But how could I understand back then that none of the other kids were black and Jewish? That none of the other kids watched movies with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire or Audrey Hepburn? That not everyone liked the Wizard of Oz or pretended to be Annie at home?
In the early 1990’s suddenly things were all right for a while. To me it still seems like the happiest time ever. Everything was good with the world and there were endless sun-filled days. I had a good group of friends and thanks to my mum I had discovered Michael Jackson. He was my example now, and it fit: I actually looked a bit like him too! He “taught” me how to dance and I lost a lot of weight as well. There was also “The Fresh Prince of Bell Air” that showed me there were people that actually looked like me living modern lives.
Meanwhile my mother worked as a presenter and producer at a local radio station and I had a weekly spot on one of the shows too. I read tales from Africa about the spider Anansi on a multicultural show. This too gave my reputation quite a boost. All the kids wanted to come see the studios and I could fix it for the whole class to do so. I also got my best friends on air and I was a hero.
Then I performed as Michael Jackson on the school camp’s final night and became the star of the school. Kids actually started calling me “Michael!!” and cheered for me. Once when I stood in front of a window in the schools auditorium kids in the yard started chanting “Michael, Michael!!” An amazing experience and for a while I knew who I was and wanted to become. Inspired by Michael even more I chose to erect the “Black and White anti racism party” for the school elections. This was one thing I had to do alone, as other kids didn’t understand it. Still I got some votes and that was inspiring. Read more
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