How being black in Phoenix made me love my culture more

In a city full of 1,626,078 people only 108,846 are Black or African American.

In the county, Maricopa, where all major cities including Phoenix settle in there’s 4.24 million people and only 221,266 are Black or African American.

I spent 30 years of my life growing up in Atlanta, a city that’s full of 486,290 people and 243,285 are Black or African American.

These 2017 Census predictions tell me that there are more black people in Atlanta than there is in the city of Phoenix and in the entire county.

Talk about a CULTURE SHOCK AF.

Did I research this before I moved? Yea of course! Did I think it was going to be noticeable? Sure did NOT!

The shock hit me HARD.

I thought I was at least going to be able to hit up a part of town where people looked like me. Where I was potentially going to hang out and meet people like I did in North Carolina where I lived for 2 years.

In Wilmington, NC that are was “the Northside” and there’s a clear line of division. Soon as you cross over Market Street the scenery changes, you are in… College Park, Cascade, Decatur, Union City, Riverdale….HOME.

Now, NC was a culture shock too but that’s a whole other story.

My plan to find the College Park of Phoenix, the area where I felt I belonged, was quickly halted.

There isn’t one.

Phoenix is so spread out there is no one area where I can see the 6% of people who look like me. Some say that area is the South Side of Phoenix, I’m still exploring that suggestion.

But when I casually go to the grocery store near my house I’m lucky if I see someone who looks like me. If I did I would surely fall to the floor a beg them to show me their ways of survival.

Back home I’d go to U-Bar off Camp Creek, aka a smorgasbord of single black men. I went to Kroger in Clayco a dude asked for my number while his girl was down the canned food isle.

You can’t walk down the street, eat, shop, sit in a dive thru without some fine specimen of a black man trying to holler.

Phoenix is a desert in many ways…

But if you go to the Martin Luther King Jr. parade or the Juneteenth celebration you can get taste of home. Hit up Poetic Soul on Wednesdays you might see a lil something, no smorgasbord though.

It wasn’t until I went to the Buy Black Marketplace, a monthly farmers market of black owned businesses that I finally felt like I was HOME.

Rows of black women and men at tables selling t-shirts, dresses, soaps, oils, makeup, handmade jewelry, food. It was like one big family got together to show off their brands.

Everybody kind of knows everybody. Like a small town in a big town.

At that moment I didn’t feel like I was in a city that’s only 6% black because everyone around me was black, like me!

I’ve still got some more exploring to do, but I’ll keep you posted on my findings.

Living in Atlanta I was sheltered, spoiled. It’s the “Black Hollywood of the South” where the culture is thriving, originating even. But in other parts of the nation, from Wilmington, NC to Phoenix, AZ the culture is not so lucky.

If you live in Atlanta, don’t take it for granted. If you live elsewhere, don’t move to Atlanta (they are full) find that sense of community in your city and let your energy add to the growing culture.

8 thoughts on “How being black in Phoenix made me love my culture more

  1. LOVE THIS! Especially this, “find that sense of community in your city and let your energy add to the growing culture.”

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  2. I feel your pain everything that you wrote I feel you and I hear you I have been living in Phoenix for 11 years and I’ve been wondering the same thing where are all the black people I come from the Bay area shut outs to the 510 Where I come from a very in ritching background Where there’s a little bit of everybody Here there’s only a sprinkle of culture and I’m being very generous But I hear you and I feel you so says the next time you come to the black market place I will be there to give you 2 kisses on the cheek And a big hug to welcome you

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  3. I actually really enjoyed reading this post and I found it most interesting when you said you were from Atlanta and then moved to Phoenix! Most people that go to Atlanta never wanna leave from what I hear! I’ve never been to Atlanta in my life! One day, I’d like to go just to sight see but that’s it! I’m happy you’ve found growth and happiness in another place!! Great Post! You’re an inspiration 🙂 XOXO!
    Jessica| https://jessierenea.com/5-bad-habits-that-ruin-your-happiness

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  4. I moved to Phoenix from Youngstown Ohio about 5 years ago. I have to say that it was an awesome move. Phoenix has been a breath of fresh air. There is so much opportunity here. I’ve been able to come and completely reinvent myself. I did, however, miss that “Cultural” piece as a whole here in Phoenix. Fortunately, I also have discovered the Archwood Exchange and other pockets of culture here that are really incredible. Thank you for posting this!

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    1. Your experience sounds exactly like mine! I’ll be seeing you in these cultural pockets because we have to find them and thrive in them to keep the culture growing here. I want to be here for awhile.

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