Containing Multitudes

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

A scrawny boy in beat-up velcro sneakers ran past. Our tour guide Mohammed sighed heavily, “Angel Park is probably the only place where a young boy could be young. Outside, he's probably the head of the family, working three jobs to secure meals for his sisters, because his parents are in jail or killed.” I thought of my twin brother slouching comfortably on the sofa holding an Xbox controller, and knowing that mom is cooking steak for dinner.

Honestly, when I signed up for the Social Justice Academy at the University of Pennsylvania, I was anticipating lectures on broad topics like racism and feminism and probably a few interesting reads. So I was really nervous when we toured Eastern State Penitentiary. One former inmate, Jesse Krimes, informed us of how the government inflated his crime on the records to pressure him to snitch. He also showed us the intricate, slightly faded landscape on his prison wall, made by years of gathering magazine pieces and pasting them to form a design, partly to avoid losing himself in solitary confinement.

The amount of shame I experienced was unspeakable, because the night before I imagined the inmates as insane men; I had plotted to wear baggy clothes and hide my phone from them, all because...

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