Associate Director of the Hart Leadership Program and Professor Lalita Kaligotla teaches PPS 263.01 – Border Crossing: Leadership, Value Conflicts & Public Life, a class that explores the theoretical, analytical and practical tools necessary to facilitate social change. It is a preparatory course for students who plan to conduct community-based research and service projects for local, national or global community partners, funded through the Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) program.
On a lovely spring day in April, Professor Kaligotla and her students met for class in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens with its verdant welcoming space open after a year-long closure due to COVID-19. Drawing inspiration from the work of author and poet, George Ella Lyon and her poem, “Where I’m From,” class was structured as a poetry jam where everyone shared short reflections evocative of home. Here is a selection of writing from that sunny day of inspiration in the gardens when a pandemic didn’t mask creative expression:
I’m from running downstairs to taste test kimchi
dollar tree Christmases and pork belly picnics
from 4 rented homes in the span of 6 years
always being the new girl, “my name is Gracie, so happy to be here”
I’m from adjusting to new environments
yet still feeling secure
knowing that in whatever physical location
my heart is still known
I’m from knowing that within two rings
a voice will be on the other line
I’m from knowing that someone cares
about all these little thoughts of mine
I’m from saving up for big trips
to visit the other end of the world
where a richness of my family’s culture and history
invites me to learn more.
I am from the in-betweens.
I am from car rides past Confederate flags
From hot dog stands and chai stalls
To reading the Gita in my living room.
Home is a privilege
One taken from my parents
Who sacrificed theirs so I could have
A better life.
That the closest I feel to home is in
The one they left.
I am from the east and the south
And from the south and the east
I am no longer from there
I am still trying to find my place here
I am from crisp ‘dosas’ served up
with spicy chutney in the steamy City of Pearls
I am from creamy grits and shrimp
for Sunday brunch in the Big Peach
I am from a place that is trying to catch up
And I am from a place that is still trying to make things right
I am from coconuts and cheese curds,
From steel pan drums and cows in herds,
Robins on the birdfeeder and monkeys in the trees,
A helping hand and someone on their knees,
The smell of fresh bread and a warm ocean breeze,
The land of thank you, ope, and please.
With custard on my tongue and sand in my hair,
I am from here and I am from there.
I am from Sunday morning drives to church, nodding off to classical radio
I am from sandcastle cars at the beach and seashell collections
I am from art, muse, and sound
I am from Friday nights at the Charlotte symphony
I am from family, forever full of feud and fun
I am from board games and Turner Classic Movies
I am from indecision climbing towards self-assurance
I am from 2AM conversations, bleary-eyed and steeped in life
I am from Sheesh kababs being grilled in the neighborhood park
I am from the smell of jasmine mixed with cigarette smoke
I am from the excitement of opening my bedroom window
To see everything covered in white
I am sitting at the dining room table doing math problems with my mom
I am from goggle marks around my eyes after swimming with my brother all day
I am from begging my mom to sleep over at a friend’s house on Friday nights…
I want you to end if that means my end
I want the gods to take back their wrath upon you
I want the gods to take back the wrath that is you
But they can’t
You are too rough
Your mountains are too much for the gods to confront
You will last…long after the Earth ends
You will last…long after the world ends
You will last…long after the gods end
You will last!