Thomas “Tommy” DeJesus (Anderson), alumni
Thomas “Tommy” DeJesus (Anderson) has been a community organizer for seven years. A graduate of the University of North Texas in Integrative Studies, he’s currently writing his memoir, which will be released this year.
To help celebrate Black History Month, we’re pleased to share “My Story, My Voice,” a series of essays written by Schoolcraft College students, faculty, staff and alumni. Please go to schoolcraft.edu/BHM to read the complete collection.
By Thomas “Tommy” DeJesus (Anderson), alumni
“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” – Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. Truer words have never been spoken. Though I smile outside, my inner thoughts contain memories of a childhood marred by violence and death with a mix of nostalgia.
My parents’ wishes came true as I was born at 11:11 p.m. My mother had already suffered a miscarriage a few years earlier. She was told that the chances of her giving birth were slim. I was born with Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, one of the leading causes of infant mortality. In Detroit – where I was born – the infant mortality rate is so high it rivals the war-torn country of Libya. As an occupational therapist, she was well aware of the odds that Black mothers often faced in dealing with hospitals. Nevertheless, she still persevered, and I was able to pull through without any issues.
I grew up in Farmington Hills. Like Livonia, Farmington Hills represented one of several white flight towns in Metro Detroit during the mid-20th century. I grew up in a majority Black and Asian neighborhood created through exclusionary zoning in the 1990s. My parents were deep believers of the Christian faith and decided to send me to a Christian school, hoping I’d receive a better education there than a public school. Big mistake.
Racial epithets and insensitivity flew from the mouths of my “Christian” teachers, classmates, and their parents with impunity. I assumed the treatment I received was normal, so I never complained to my parents. However, my mother saw it and did everything she could to fight it. With her help, the school instituted their first ever Black History Month program my 1st grade year.
In my 3rd grade year, she began her own fight with pulmonary hypertension, which ultimately took her life on November 12, 2008. As a result, my father became a single father and the racial torment worsened as we entered the Obama era. Nonetheless, like her during my birth, I persevered.
Over 10 years later, her legacy lives on through me. Today, I continue to serve humanity by promoting Black unity and self-love. “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson…” – Malcolm X.