My Best Miami Memory is a new monthly feature where Miami creatives share their favorite memories of the Magic City. This is the first installment.
It is 1990-something (I'm in eighth grade) and I'm sitting in the Miami Arena, waiting for a concert to begin. The performers are a surprise, so we -- me and other eighth-graders from all over Dade County -- are guessing who it might be. I am praying to the Lord in Heaven that it's Boyz II Men.
It's the middle of the day, so we should be in school, but this is a field trip. We're there because someone somewhere decided we are at risk for eventually dropping out of high school, which starts next year.
This couldn't be further from the truth, I think -- my parents would kill me! They don't want me making the same mistake as my dad! But whoever made the call about who needed to be in that arena was likely on the Dade County School Board, so maybe they were just looking for ways to waste money.
The highlight of the day so far was riding the People Mover. It's all been downhill since that. We've had to sit through several very lame speeches about the importance of education to get to this music.
We're confused because we all have good grades -- why are we here? And if we're going to be stuck here, at least keep us entertained! Bring on Boyz II Men already!
We grow wild. "Start the concert or we'll drop out of high school," I yell, thinking, I'm so clever! How could they think for a second I'll drop out? As if my dad weren't just as clever. As if I didn't get it from him.
A voice from overhead announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, announcing the newest artist of LaFace Records: Usher Raymond!"
"Who the fuck is Usher Raymond?" we yell. Who is this nobody? This was long before Usher Raymond was just Usher. No one had suggested he lose the Raymond yet. No one had realized he was at risk for superlameness with that last name.
We booed him. No, worse: We booed the shit out of him. We booed him until we were hoarse. We yelled, "You suck!" until a chaperone came over and removed the loudest boy. (Did he end up dropping out? If so, is it Usher's fault?)
We yelled all the things that at-risk kids given a day away from school in order to get them to stay in school would yell at an unknown-to-them R&B star. We were a force.
But Usher is Usher. I have never forgotten the smile and wave he gave as he left that stage and disappeared into the bowels of the Miami Arena, his face betraying the knowledge that he was destined for much bigger things.
Jennine Capó Crucet is the author of the story collection How to Leave Hialeah, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. Her first novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, will be published by St. Martin's Press in August 2015. Originally from Miami, Capó Crucet is an assistant professor of creative writing at Florida State University. You can follow her on Twitter.
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