I shoved my research notebook in my desk drawer and slammed it closed.
I’d just completed my dissertation study. I should have been eager to sift through the pages, but that notebook was the last thing I wanted to see.
The year before, I’d traveled to Detroit to purchase it.
I barely recognized Woodward Avenue. No longer decorated with broken streetlights and vacant lots, it was now well-lit and laced with high-end stores, modern buildings, and farm-to-table restaurants. The media called it “an urban renewal,” but Detroit natives knew it was gentrification.
“I can get out here,” I told my Uber driver. He dropped me off in front of Shinola Detroit. Once inside, a white, thin store clerk whose brunette hair was tousled into a messy bun attempted to give me a tour. Her smile was perfectly plastered on her face as if she’d drawn it on with pencil.
“Welcome, what can I help you with today? We have our new collection over — ”
“I’m looking for your pink notebook. I saw it online… the small one, not the large one,” I told her.
“Oh, right this way!” She cheerfully walked me over to a large glass case that housed an expansive notebook collection, each one perfectly spaced out under a warm yellow light.
I had about three and a half hours before the first three chapters of my dissertation were due. If I successfully defended those chapters and my advisor permitted me to begin data collection, the notebook would become more than just a notebook — it would be a gift. In it, I would document answers to questions that had originated in my life decades earlier: What does it mean to be Black American? Nigerian? African? All of those things at once?
That notebook would be my piece of home while I met weekly with Nigerian immigrant youth and their families across three cities in Central Texas as part of my field research.
Before I paid for it, I requested that my initials be embroidered on the cover’s lower right corner. “That’ll be extra,” the embroiderer informed me. I swiped my card.