Short Thoughts from my perspective at an HBCU.
As I start school soon, it seemed fitting to reflect on my most recent academic experience: college. When I decided to come to a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) for college I don’t think I realized that I would be coming into “a different world” (ifykyk).
I knew the students at that school were mostly black and although I was completely fine with that fact (and all I believed it would entail), I wasn’t ready for the big culture shock I would encounter on campus. The delicacy in soul-food, the resounding notes of soulful music, and even the beautiful design of “gospel” worship remarkably taught me so much about a resilient group of people I grew to love and respect.
During the first year, there were times in which I stuck out among my group of friends or classmates (the Hispanic population on campus grew over a spread out period). There were times where any stereotypical comment or joke about Hispanics brought me to high simmer. There were times in classes where I felt a disconnect for not being able to relate to some things mentioned in certain classes or historical reflections. But those were little emotions compared to my struggles of growth and learning to be independent.
Because I had not yet taken the time to learn who I was (or cherish myself fully) during my first couple of years, I capped myself and the potential I had to offer. As an example, I often shied away joining academic clubs or simply showing up for myself in more public settings for the fear of being awkward. I came to college while in a relationship from high school. As many of those come and go, I settled into a love-seeking cycle, becoming more timid and reclusive. If it weren’t for the girls next door, I know I wouldn’t have broken out of this fear of being myself
The talented dcity girls next door introduced me to Neo-Soul, and Rupi Kaur. Once I decided to bust out of the shy cage, once I decided to speak up in class and place my feet onto the ground and be grounded, man did I have fun. My sprightly dread-headed professor presented me to the world of artistic Black Literature and I was quickly enamored by these writers. In each class, with each professor, and each department we discussed culture, words, and art: the dynamics of identity and race. My courses taught me the power in creativity, history, and blending the two with grace and faith. The weather in the AL/TN borderlands was colder than in FL too and I gradually embraced this season of cultural celebration into my own soul.
Being there allowed me to grow into this woman I’m excited to keep meeting and hanging out with. My personal identity as a female, Hispanic, young woman was continuing to form around the idea of celebrating the skin I’m in, celebrating our cultural roots (pre-colonialism), and being infected with a fighting spirit, just like the souls of some of my favorite people. Being a minority within a minority helped me grow in fun ways.