[826 Valencia, our nonprofit arm in San Francisco, awarded our first college scholarship to Chinaka Hodge, 18, who hails from Oakland and is matriculating at NYU. Chinaka is an electrifying spoken word performer and was an integral part of Youth Speaks, our sponsoring organization in the Bay Area. She will be sending us monthly updates on her first year of college. This is the first.]

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On August 25th I move into Brittany Residence Hall. Sixteen floors, not including the penthouse. Dance floor, piano practice room, original arcade Tetris in the lounge. I live on the eleventh floor. Each floor has a theme. The theme of my floor is of course pirates. Why pirates you ask? I’m guessing two things. One: 826 rules the world or Two: Chris the RA thinks the theme “we’re all in the same boat” is quite clever.

I am the first to reach the room. I unpack two small suitcases. The rest comes later. I have some sheets for the bed but no comforter, and mostly tanktops for the warm Manhattan summers. Never mind that it’s been raining, no worries that it’s been freezing.

So I’m unpacked. I guess I should wait around and meet the roommates. I listen to the entire first two CDS in my Stevie Wonder box set before Rachel enters. She doesn’t live in my room but she’s a suitemate. Musical Theater Major Gig Harbor, Washington, DC. Then comes Jackie, Musical Theater Major, Chicago Ill. Enter Christin, Irish and Puerto Rican Dancer from Augusta, GA.

Where is my roommate? Andrea comes in at about 7 pm. I’ve been here since 11am. Hope she doesn’t mind that I chose the bed closest to the door.

That was the first day. That’s what I remember clearly. In addition, I have made friends with a nice girl from Cambridge (or seven floors down, whichever way you look at it). She’s the greatest. In our two short weeks together she has come up with the keys to life. “Why ask questions? The city has its own reasons.” Deep, right?

Oh yeah, classes are good. I am just in my second day of instruction. Taking some creative writing which promises to stunt any growth, but it’s the prerequisite to all of my other courses for next year. My writing is coming along nicely. It’s — in the works. (Are there any other euphamisims for conveying that I’m a tad blocked?)

On the other hand, I have many performances lined up for the fall, a few back in San Francisco. How will that work? Well, you’ll have to tune in to Update October for the exciting conclusion. I have a job handing out toilet paper at the front desk. I am on student council. I have an exceedingly large ‘mini’ freezer that came today. Hey 826, does lard freeze well? I also got stood up for a date earlier this week. The whole Felicity thing is going as planned.

I am the only black person on my floor in the dorms. From my hallway window I can see Grace Cathedral. At night I can see a man, maybe once he was a blues singer. He curls up in the threshold of the church. I wish I could invite him in. We have so much excess space.