Bubbles & Belief

Princess Ann Nelson (photo by Trista McGovern and Glynnis Forsberg)

My mom says that who you are is your ‘muchness’ mixed with the experiences you face in life and how you respond to them.

I am 14, and my muchness has been through some tough experiences. My response to these challenges is learning to accept them with grace. I know my role is important for the legacy of my people.

I live on the northside of Minneapolis. Growing up, I had the TV- perfect life — at least, to me it was. I lived in a big house, with my mom and my dad and two big brothers. I had two rooms, and all the pets I wanted — from dogs to sea monkeys. Life was so great. I sometimes want to rewind to when I was a kid, oblivious to the real world, living in a little bubble of my community.

One day the bubble popped, and my air became thin. One of my brothers passed away. The sad part is, I don’t remember him that much. I don’t remember how I learned about his death.

I remember the wake — it was on my birthday. I was numb. Slowly, my mom lost her mind. My dad was in jail through it all. I managed to feel safe, and to cope, and to go day by day.

I felt at one with dirt and sand, my mom tells me. I remember keeping worms as pets, yet they would always escape.

A day I will never forget is when I stood up for myself and said I had enough. My mom and dad were fighting. I told them to stop — that I felt like a gorilla in a cage.

Being able to speak up for myself like that was my first taste of power. The bitter sweetness was addictive. It helped me escape my worries, just like the worms did.

My community started to change. People left, and I was next. Me and my mom moved into a so-called better neighborhood, but I had been fine with where I lived.

It was crazy to me that I was moved from one place to another, without any say — and that just because it was a white neighborhood, I was supposed to be safe. The truth was, I had never felt more unsafe and out of place. I used to love playing outside with my friends. We got creative, made up games, had fun, and that made me feel safe.

Since then, I have been exposed to more of my power, and more opportunities. My mom’s organization is growing. I started my own Pretty Girls Club — an idea I thought of when I was five years old. I teach girls in my community that if they are pretty on the inside, then they are pretty on the outside.

You might wonder why I have talked about my past so much. It is because that is who I am. I care about where I grew up — where I learned and experienced what has made me the person that I am today.

I want my legacy to be great, and to love myself through thick and thin. I’ve learned that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. That’s the secret — believe, and the greatest work will come out.