Hot summer in the city: Flint native reflects on home during the sweltering heat wave

The following is a Flintside opinion piece by Flint native So'Phelia Morrow. Have an idea for an essay or opinion piece you'd like to write for Flintside about life in Flint? Email [email protected].

The sweltering heat wave has introduced us to summer. I decided to drive downtown to see the historic Flint weather ball. Since moving back to Flint in 2022, I have been reflecting on the things that I love that are unique to Flint, including the weather ball, the Flint-style coney, or the fact that the only place you can get a stromboli from a Little Caesar’s restaurant is from the Flint area locations.
But what I’ve been reflecting on most is what my mama said to me when I left for college in 2008: “You can always come back home.” In other words, if I couldn’t survive on my own, I could always come back home to safety.

At the time, I didn’t want to come back home because Flint had stopped being safe for me. I experienced severe violence in one of my relationships in high school and by the time I was ready to attend college, I wanted to put distance between me and Flint. Between me and home. Between me and the trauma.
I didn’t attend school too far away from Flint but it was just far enough where I could isolate myself. Whenever I would come home from school during the breaks, I made sure to work. And if I came home during a break and didn’t work, I would only stay a couple of days. If friends and family couldn’t see me, they had to catch me when I came home again which would usually be every few months.

I wanted to avoid anything that reminded me of my trauma, and this meant spending as little time as possible in Flint. At the time, I didn’t understand that this was a trauma response. I thought with time and a little distance, the trauma would “go away” but you can’t control where or when trauma happens to you.
So'Phelia Morrow.
I have been learning a lot since I moved back home and it's that home is complex. It can be a physical place, sure, but home is more than that. As the popular saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” It is the place in which you feel safest and most secure.

Home can mean different things to different people, and home can change over time. The same place I ran from to get away from trauma, I had to run back to, to heal from trauma.

The healing journey is said to be filled with peaks and valleys. However, healing to me often feels like I am perpetually living in the valley, some days are just better than others, but healing is best done in a safe and secure place — at home.

Though healing has its ups and downs, healing at home in Flint has made the healing journey much more manageable. Home is healing. Home gives me strength.
Home is about renewal, rebirth, and revitalization. While it is hard to know that most of the schools I attended are closed, and it is difficult to see so many places boarded up, home is about starting over because sometimes that’s the best that we can do.

Home is about opportunity. The Rx Kids program exemplifies this as it is a “prescription program for health, hope, and opportunity” providing the families of Flint with necessary support through unconditional cash transfers.

If hope is the residue that’s left after destruction, then home is what we build with hope. The community we create. The people we pour into. Home is hope. For me, returning home meant returning to hope.
A good friend of mine once said, “Going home is becoming the person you could have always been.” If you want to change who you are as a person or remember who you are, go home. If you feel lost, need some hope, want to start over, heal, or just need grounding, remember what my mama told me. You can always come back home, whatever that means to you. Have a coney. Grab a stromboli. Build your community. Go see the weather ball.
So'Phelia Morrow is a PhD candidate in the joint Social Work and Sociology program at the University of Michigan and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project and Equality Now.
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