I moved to Humboldt County, California, to attend Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater in September 2017. I could have chosen the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, which has a similar pedagogical approach to physical theater. Ultimately, I decided to leave my environment on the east coast for a personal challenge to stretch and grow.
I had no idea about Humboldt County. Never heard of it. When I arrived to Humboldt, I thought it was so beautiful — the picturesque rural nature of the forest, mountains, and rivers that I had not yet lived in or around. Despite my research on Humboldt, I was in major culture shock by the quiet downshift, rural living, the white hippies that keep reggae music and Rastafarianism alive, the isolation, and overall whiteness. There’s much more, but I’ll leave it there. People here call it the Redwood Curtain (withholding and shielding everything), but I think of this place as the twilight zone. It feels like I’m living a narrative from the 1970’s. The foremost acknowledgment of Humboldt County is the present ancestral people of this land in which I honor tribes and nations Hupa, Karuk, Mattole, Tolowa, Wailaki, Wiyot, Yurok. I have bonded and spent time with many people of all ages from 4 of these tribes, and the stories, lessons, and cultures humble me.
Ever since I arrived, I had set in my mind that I was headed out. I would meet people and say, “Hi, I’m Dionna, and I’m moving next summer”. It’s been three years now, and I AM STILL HERE. What keeps me here is the sense of community that I created through dance, Black Humboldt, the silence, and a newfound love for healthy rural living and nature (hiking, wading rivers, and harvesting produce). I feel free and able to actualize who I was meant to become in this chapter of life. As much as I miss the city life, the noise, and seeing lots of people who look like me (Black people), for now, when I meet people, I’ll say, “I’m here for as long as God allows”.