Oak Park and River Forest High School just had a 30th (+2 years because of the COVID pandemic) reunion. It’s hard to believe 30 years have passed. Back in the late ’80s early ’90s, life was not necessarily simpler but it was more conforming. That made the polarization simpler to manage. Now we have discovered a new level of diversity. We have evolved.
With evolution comes a level of sophistication that tells us all people need to be considered. It’s not OK to call a woman a “chick.” Thicker eyebrows are better than thin ones but it’s too late to grow your eyebrows back. Plus now, no eyebrows or “disappeared” eyebrows are in anyway. When our children are old, gray and silver, eyebrows might be on trend.
Thirty years ago, “on trend” was called “in”. The new kids have stolen our 30-year-old “pound” and made it “hashtag” (#). Today’s generations have sampled our music and our words from 30 years ago. But this is called evolution. So we accept it as progress.
Yet it is so great to look back at the’80s/’90s era. They were so great! Girls wore clothes that made them look like 16-year-old versions of their 40-year-old mothers. And, wearing your clothes way too big for you was in. Hair was double the size it is now and three times as stiff. And that was a cross-racial trend. Everything was either the shape of a box or a triangle — from clothing patterns, to Trapper Keepers (kids, keep up and google this). Love started with a mix tape.
But what do you do when it’s time to go back to OPRF High School 30 years later to see people whose daily progression you haven’t been able to see unless you have Facebook (META).
My dear friend, Kawana Moore, class of 1990, went to the reunion and enjoyed seeing everyone but, in her usual jovialness, wished everyone had music to dance together to. This is so important. We have been through some stuff. We are all exhausted and our generation is so hard-core tough, we made it through. We earned our graceful wrinkles. We experienced the polarization of recent years.
OPRF is a diverse school. Everyone needs to dance together and drink together in a show of love and support for each other. Thirty years later, we won’t accept polarization within the high school class. This is progress, right? This is evolution.
At the next reunion, there will not be a division of Black versus white students and how each celebrate. At the next reunion, everyone will drink and dance together in frenzied, uninhibited celebration of the fact they have made it this long past the high school years.
Next high school reunion, classmates should be throwing their fists in the air saying, “We made ’80s generation!” “We are young. Heartache to heartache we stand!” (Pat Benatar). We don’t sample other generations. Other generations sample us. One of the greatest entertainers, Beyonce, samples our music. Not the other way around. We don’t accept polarization no matter what world we currently live in. We were the kids who played on the block with friends of all kinds no matter what they looked like: rainbow mohawk, tall box-shaped afro with edges, 5-inch-wide feathered hair, and hot combed perfectly pressed hair.
We are the generation of expanding boundaries. We knew how to survive while partying and loving each other. So next time, dance. That’s evolution.
EL Serumaga is a resident of River Forest and Founder of ecovici.com.