As you drive toward High Point north from Charlotte, the first city is Thomasville, named after the famous furniture manufacturer. The very next city along Interstate 85 is High Point. Although High Point is a major destination throughout the South, it still has a two-lane road as if the city is afraid that one day the people will stop comin'. As you enter High Point, you can feel the pressure of the city as you're trapped in a traffic jam. The first local spot that you see on 85 North heading into High Point is the Paradise Hotel, which people say is where the drug addicts stay when they've been evicted. My friends used to call High Point the "Land of the Dead," because it was so hard for people to get their voices heard, musically or otherwise. Now, as you cross the city line, there is a billboard of my face that says "Saluting High Point's American Idol, Fantasia Barrino." I still have a hard time looking at it because I can't believe it's there. There is a lot of musical talent in High Point, but no one ever seems to get out far enough to show it to the world or to get a billboard. Most of the people that I knew there ended up strung out on drugs, became drunks, went to jail, had too many kids, or died.
Now, when I drive through the streets of High Point, I'm always happy to see the same old men sitting on the side of Washington Street, drinkin' and tryin' to have a good time. They make me remember that just a few years ago that was Rico, Tiny, and me playing outside with no shoes on. I remember when some of those drunk men used to stumble by when they had their bottle of gin already and an extra dollar and would say, "Come on over here and sing me a song, and I will give you a dollar." I used to stop whatever I was doing, sing the men a song, and get a dollar to buy candy at the Candy Lady who was parked on the corner. Since I was five, singing has always been my life and my livelihood. Ain't nothin' changed.
People are poor in High Point because there are not a lot of jobs. If you don't work in a furniture showroom, a hospital, a school, a nursing home, High Point University, a restaurant, or a gas station, there isn't really much more to do. Like I said, my mother worked many jobs to support us. My mother struggled along with Grandma basically raising Rico while she worked and my father was out on the road. After Tiny was born, my father started making more of an effort to take care of his family. My father still wanted to be involved with singing and so did my mother, despite having two little boys. My parents would sing at any opportunity that came to them.