// by Kassandra (K.) Piñero
Growing up in New York City with a mother who was born and raised in Brooklyn during its worst times, I was kept away from most of the madness. My mother refused to put me in housing projects or shelters and instead chose to bust her ass working as a hostess so we could live in a one bedroom in a quiet suburb on Staten Island. I grew up feeling disconnected from everything: from my Nuyorican roots to the kids I went to school with. I was sheltered in an odd way. Kept hidden from the beautiful mess that is urban living. Who I was, racially, sexually, and mentally, made my teen years hell to survive. New York City, as complex as it is, made my life a hell of a lot easier as I grew older. I finally learned to embrace my racial identity by discovering art centered around the same things I used to struggle with.