Guest Blogger Ka’miya Gunn shares her gift for poetry and music as part of an oral presentation for the DC Summer Institute.
Takin’ Over was the first song that I ever released on SoundCloud. It was my first chance to tell my story. For that, it will always hold a special place in my heart. While it was written sometime last June, it captures both the good and bad of the last year of my life. It expresses all that I could ever say about my heart, my God, and my desire to help others. For a brief moment, I wish to show you why this song matters so much to me. Let’s begin.
I stay on the grind
I keep to what’s mine
People think I’m lonely,
But truly I’m fine
I go with the flow,
But I think that’s its time
For me to take to take over
The world is now mine, I’m fine
Through these words, I share a little bit about my drive. I am a way-maker. This trait emerged partially out of necessity and partially because of my family. As the oldest of four, I learned early on about the importance of responsibility. While I understood the need for family and compromise, I also enjoyed my alone time. I was and still am easy going, no doubt. But times have changed, and so have I. I no longer live in the world of passivity. I recognize the needs of my community and take strides to bring about change.
Living how I please
Giving mad thanks to the One who made me
And for the times when I failed and fell off,
A thanks to all those who downright saved me
This past year was a very tough year for me, especially regarding my faith. I grew up in a religious family. Christian values and beliefs naturally took me in. It was all that I knew up until the end of my freshman year. During that time, I was still living off the fumes of old Sunday rituals and scriptures. I thought that things would continue as they were sophomore year; but, I was wrong. When it came time to take that leap of faith again, I fell. Fell hard. I struggled more and more every day. I kept doubting Him, kept asking questions, kept demanding answers, and kept wishing for a different way out. I was ultimately afraid of dying. I was afraid that my life wouldn’t matter. And afraid that I couldn’t or wouldn’t want to believe anymore. I confessed my doubts to my family and my closest friends. It wasn’t easy for them, I know. They struggled to keep me and struggled even harder to reassure me. For a while, they felt that I was slipping away. I was. But I slowly made my way back. I realized that after falling so many times, that the only thing that I could do was hold on. I had to let go of the things that I couldn’t control and learn how to believe in something greater than myself. That test molded me into the person that I am today.
I’m minding the time, I’m already shining
Goals being checked off, and now I am finding
Ways to go back and help those who are grinding
Coming from nothing, I know cuz I’ve tried it
Living how I please,
Living for the ones who came before me
I’m tryna change the game,
Change lives, and raise hope, and tell my story
I am truly blessed. The prayers of my grandmother and mother have manifested into beautiful fruits. I am healthy. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am driven. Most importantly, I understand my call to be a light to someone in the dark. I realize now that I am so fortunate to have these values and skills. They will take me farther than any job or amount of money could ever do. The Office of Community Engagement held a series of conversations about the criminal justice system. During the second visit, I heard one quote that still inspires me today. It was (more or less) “once I saw the light of consciousness, I owed.” I interpreted these words as a charge to the privileged. I fight for education because it allows me to see beyond what’s around me. It allows me to go back and understand how things happened, why they happened, and who has and is being affected by these things. Most importantly, it allows me to understand myself and to see what others see. Once I recognized this gift (the gift of knowledge), it became my responsibility to share it with others. My life turned into a daily mission of serving my community and loving others at the same time. Both of which require a willingness to act despite differences.
What would you do
If you had nothing to lose
While the world was out for you
You were takin’ over
What would you do
If you had nothing to prove
While the world was out for you
You were takin’ over
This speaks truth to the Black community. I fight for them because they fought for me. They fought for my chance to vote, for my chance to move about freely, for my chance to a quality education, for my chance to speak, and for my chance to live. The world continues to shut us out. While times have surely changed, I still see the legacies of racism and discrimination affecting Black communities. It burns me up and beats me down to know that change in this specific area is slower than ever. I was so hopeful once that everything would work out before my time ends. That we would all be free and happy. After many tears, I realized that it was never my job alone to save everyone. Instead, my one task is to pick up the torch and carry it as far as I can. While the world (at least most of it) continues to persecute me, I will make a difference. I will shine. I will shine for them.
I don’t mean to run it,
I don’t mean to pry
But those who took office
Are wasting my time
Come from the bottom
And that’s where you’ll find,
People like me who are waiting to shine X2
The recent presidential election was an eye-opening experience for me. For one, it opened my eyes to the flaws of William & Mary. The sense of community that persuaded me to give four years of my life to the university dwindled before my eyes. The night of the results disheartened me. I was sitting around 30 or so Black students. The attitudes quickly moved from light and smooth to serious and bitter. So many of my friends were silent and shocked. Some weren’t. I tried to console my best friend, but I couldn’t. I became afraid. To see someone in office who truly didn’t care about me hurt my feelings. To see so many believe in him. Not just for his ability as a politician, but for what he stands for as a person woke me up. After that, I experienced the true meanings of a safe space. There, I grieved, I gained strength, and I became empowered once again. That’s why I fight so hard to keep that alive.
Trying to find ways to get by
Tripping off nothing and stay on the grind
Keeping their heads low and minding the time
Hoping to live on and not just survive
Struggled for days, made it out fine
Built up our armor so now we are shining
Glory to God for the times that we fly
Living like queens, takin’ over tonight
Do what I do till the day that I die
Tripping off those who cannot see my light
Trippin’ off haters who grind for the night
Not giving back so they take it with spite
Wish I could show them, but they don’t see right
Filters for lenses, blinded by the lights
Money and fame takin’ over tonight
But I’m about to step in, peace it, make it right
I pray for them, I stay with them X 2
The things I learned over the past few days have changed my life for the better. Some stories reaffirmed my beliefs and others challenged me to see things differently. All in all, I learned that heart and skill represent the foundation of success. Success to me is measured by how much of an impact I have on the lives of others. My heart encapsulates my love for God and my love for others. My skills reflect my experiences, my beliefs, and my knowledge. With these two things, I hope to do the right thing. Through music, I will share my story. Music expands beyond time and space. Music allows me to cast a light for longer and farther than I ever could’ve imagined. For that, I am grateful. For that, I will keep writing.