Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.

I Thank God I Was Raised in the CD

Photo by Jill Freidberg

Photo by Jill Freidberg

J.J. Jackson

I was adopted when I was 3 years old and raised on 21st and Spruce. I had a disease a skin disease called Vitiligo which turned me from black to white. I didn't know where I belonged. I didn't know if I belonged with black people or with white people. Once I told my mother about it, she was like, "well, you're special, so you're black." So bottom line. "You're a negro." I was like, "okay." So I felt right into that. And I started hanging out with blacks. So I was always straddling the line, you know, when I needed to be black I was black, when I needed to be white, I was white. That's how it went. I thank God, first and foremost, that I was raised in the CD. It taught me a lot. You know, my parents taught me a lot. Taught me how to survive. I can make soup out of a rock. Okay? I ain't got no money, I can make soup out of a rock. Daddy worked at Todd Shipyard for 43 years. When he got off work every Friday - you got paid every Friday then - my daddy would come home and give the to check my mama. My mama would give him $20 to last him to the next Friday, and that's how it went. In order for me to have extra money, I used to go out and hustle. Because that's what it was all about. And what I mean by hustle, at that time, was mop the floors of the clubs, go to the grocery store that was in the neighborhood and say, "can I bag, can I do something," and that's how we survived.

I thank God I was raised here. I wish it was as it was. Because when they say it takes a tribe to raise a child, that is true. When I got in trouble at school, when I got on my block, everybody on the block knew. Ms Campbell knew. Sister Gerald knew. Everybody knew. And you were lucky if you didn't get whooped from the time you hit the block to the time you got home.

If you didn't have something, you could tell your neighbor, "Hey. I don't have such and such." "Oh, let me bring it to you." And they would do it. "I don't have groceries." "Oh! I got a little extra  money here. Let me go help you. Come on go to store with me and get what you want." Those were the good times. Those were the good times.