I Deserve To Be Here

A short video by Storyteller Emily Hooper Lansana

THEME:  Crossing Color Lines to Reach For Your Best


emilyEmily Hooper Lansana’s story tells us about her educational journey growing up in a house where her parents always wanted her to have access to the best.  Growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, she learned a lot about the ways that kids of different races were separated, and separated themselves, at school.   

From voluntary busing to being called an “Oreo”, Lansana navigates the color lines until she finally lands with the theatre kids who move more easily between different groups.  During high school, a guest speaker challenged her to think in new ways about racism and stereotypes and after his visit, Lansana and her friends formed a student group to talk with elementary school students about friendship and peer pressure and how it should be okay to cross lines to be friends with anyone you want.

When the time comes to consider college, Lansana remembers her father’s dream that she attend Yale.  She doesn’t think she’ll make it and even her guidance counselor tells her it’ll be tough for her, but she applies anyway and gets accepted.

Once at Yale, Lansana makes new friends, studies African American Intellectuals with Cornell West, and she comes more fully into herself, finally accepting that she, like everyone, deserves the best.

Lansana looks back over her journey and wonders how her life might have been different if she had always believed that to be true.  It is through this new understanding that Lansana understands what racial justice is all about – making everyone feel that wherever they walk – they deserve to be there.