Black, brown, white, yellow. These are just colors. Some people use these colors as labels. Deep within these labels, are all sorts of expectations. Expectations from those who believe that just because you are a certain color, you should act a certain way, talk a certain way and be from some part of the world.
I am an adopted African-American 15-year-old who dreams of becoming a Delta Air Lines pilot.
When I was little, I heard about African-Americans being killed by police, but I didn’t really understand it. Growing up in South Orange, N.J., with my two dads and little sister, 90 percent of my friends were black and brown at school.
In 2012, we moved to Connecticut, while my dads were looking to buy an inn. While there, my school friends were a mix of black and white. Some diversity.
We eventually moved to North Conway and bought the Cranmore Inn. Here, it was a different story. Black and brown? Almost rare. White? Everywhere I go. My friends were 95 percent white. This is when I realized I'm African-American. Here, I felt different. I was ... am different.
In elementary school, I went to Robert Frost Charter School and John H. Fuller Elementary. At Robert Frost, I felt confused, wanted to be like the older, more mature kids, who rejected me. I was also one of only two African-American kids there.
Then I went to Kennett Middle School, where a handful of students started asking me, “Can I get the N-word pass?” I knew what the "N word" was and still know. I didn’t know how to react, so I said sure and before long, about 15 kids had this “N word pass.” I didn’t know how to feel or what to do when they said that. I’d just smile awkwardly. They used it as sort of a greeting, saying, “What’s up, my N*****?” and do the weird “homie handshake.” No “What's up, David?”(which is how my amazing close friends greeted me).
It was time for high school after that. My parents had heard that Kennett didn't handle racism well and wanted me to consider Fryeburg Academy. Ultimately, my dads and I agreed that Fryeburg Academy was the place to go.
The first day was TERRIBLE ... and I truly mean TERRIBLE. I’d arrived knowing only two people. They weren’t exactly friends, just acquaintances. I truly felt alone that first day. It didn’t matter whether other freshmen were just as scared, I was too scared and out of my comfort zone to talk to THEM. I’d see kids I hadn’t seen for years (from Robert Frost), and it just felt awkward. Soon it was the end of the day, and I still felt alone.
But as I waited to be picked up, I distinctly remember seeing three students (a girl and two boys) lying on blankets, playing music and chatting. I remember sitting on the curb looking at them. And one of them said hello! Before long, we had started chatting. One of them was gay, the other transgender, and the girl a partner of one of the boys. I’d told them of my dads, and about the day in general. This was the first time I felt a sense of true diversity. I told my Dad later I had made three new friends (who still are my friends today).
After that, I felt comfortable engaging with anyone and everyone. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and I currently have a group of diverse friends. I truly feel accepted. Seeing everyone from different parts of not just Maine or the U.S. but the world, I feel a sense of unity at Fryeburg Academy.
Here, my race isn’t a broken puzzle piece. I am one puzzle piece. Every student adds on, each a different color, shape, size and role. Edge pieces, round pieces, tall, short, long pieces, each waiting for another puzzle piece to finish the rest.
I can now freely talk among my friend group about everything and everything. Some people in my group are gay, some straight, some bi. We are like one big multi-flavored pie.
I kind of want the world to be like this, like Fryeburg Academy. One big diverse world where everyone is accepted. We learn and have fun, and everyone is headed for great things.
David Bellis-Bennett is the son of Christopher Bellis and Eddie Bennett, owners of the Cranmore Inn.