Goodbye Medgar Evers College, Hello Sweet Briar

Goodbye Medgar Evers College, Hello Sweet Briar

From Black diaspora to pearls.
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I often elicit curiosity from peers when they discover I am from New York City but decided to trek to Virginia for college. The simple answer is that it is easier to roll out of bed and get to class in five minutes than it is to take a bus and a train, neither of which will ever, within the wide expanse of time and space, ever arrive on time, and there is never a guarantee of a seat. Commuting back and forth each day to my last college in Brooklyn was exhausting. I often took a nap shortly after arriving home. After two years at Sweet Briar, I have grown used to living away from home and appreciate the ease of getting to class.

Apart from the travel, there was also the community. Each college has its own unique culture. My last college was very laid back and casual, and few tended to stay on campus if they were done with classes for the day. I met most of my friends at the office for students like myself with learning disabilities. It was the one place on campus I could call my home away from home. I’d hang out and study there between classes and take my finals there as well. I’d go there for advice and a shoulder to cry on. At a midpoint of two Brooklyn blocks, this place was my safe haven.

My last college was also newer and was founded in 1965. It was established in the memory of Civil Rights activist, Medgar Evers. The community of Medgar Evers College is primarily Black, and represents many in the Black diaspora. Writing across the disciplines was emphasized so each class I took was writing intensive. Even greater than strengthening my skills in academic writing, African and African American literature, history, and viewpoints were treated as equals among Eurocentric viewpoints. I read British literature from 800 AD to the 18th century, but I also read "Dream on Monkey Mountain" by Derek Walcott, a Saint Lucia poet and playwright and "Ruined" by Lynn Nottage. My classmates often shared firsthand experiences of the issues present in the plays and novels we read.

One of my favorite experiences was in my Creative Writing/Playwright class in spring of 2013. It was the one in which I read the aforementioned plays. After weeks of writing our one-act plays and reading the plays of notable playwrights, we had table readings. If I can recall correctly, we table-read three plays each class for two weeks. The professor, wanting to draw attention to the parts she found, worked well on how our individual background shaped what we wrote. One woman in the class wrote about a post-apocalyptic world in which one of her characters wrote poetry on the walls to cope with the bleak reality. Another play had two settings most of the play, a bench and a payphone. The gravity was in the dialogue. My play, the polar opposite, had many settings. In the class, I learned when the dialogue is written with care, it can make off-stage events stand in for additional scenes. Pacing was not my strong point, and to a lesser degree now, it still is not.

Sweet Briar has a drastically different culture in many ways because most students and faculty live on campus. My last college was a commuter school, and Sweet Briar is very much a residential college. My sandbox became much larger. I feel more comfortable diving into new experiences because women pique my interest in new activities and subjects, and encouragement is always present. There is also a plethora of extracurricular activities available that are not present at Medgar. It was part of my decision of leaving. I am a woman that becomes restless and easily bored. In my first year, I rode, took voice lessons, started a club and went on a hike. I also became very exhausted at my new school but it was the kind of exhaustion that is punctuated with renewed vigor. The verdant campus and the ice cold misty air at 2 a.m. after a long night of studying in the humanities building Benedict is the most pleasant thing to walk through rather than the sound of early morning delivery tucks vying for room on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway as I make my way out of the 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts.

Each place has its own baseline, Virginia a little lower, but the experiences I’ve had with others have been far more meaningful. New York’s baseline doesn’t span more than a beat. There is convenience to living in New York City, many options I could choose from after a day of classes. Options I could walk to but there was often wasted time and opportunity, the wasted time looking for something good and usually fattening to eat or a movie or shopping trip and the missed opportunity for deeper human connections. Going away to college, if one does not spend too much time in their room, affords opportunities to connect to others. I’ve spent more time than I care to mention talking with my peers in the dining hall and more often than not it’s academic. The city lights have not been as invigorating as a prolonged conversation with classmates since I began school at Sweet Briar.

Sweet Briar is a hidden gem that many people I know had no idea existed when I began my sophomore year in August 2014. Sweet Briar is predominately white, very different from Medgar in a lot of ways because of that. The biggest is that the continent of Africa is often neglected in most courses in both the English and history department. On the cultural side, I honestly do not understand preppy clothing for the most part, or pearls, though many of my classmates are convinced it is a wardrobe must. I border on hipster, and most of my clothing is navy, cranberry, forest green and black. There was culture shock in the first few months. Strange looks were thrown my way when I said I did not know what puffy paint was.

Honestly, those are the small things. Humorous but, not at the root of what was most difficult. The hardest part in acclimating was finding myself all over again. I did not fit the Suzy Sweet Briar type and initially, it made me feel like an outsider and brought on intense loneliness. What made me feel a part of Sweet Briar were the traditions. In my sophomore/ first year I was assigned a senior to give a gift each month for their impending commencement date. The tradition is called Secret Sophomore, and you reveal yourself at the end of the spring semester. The woman was in my Education 103 class, and we also carpooled together for our field experience. The tricky part was to not let any of her gifts align with what we talked about on our weekly car rides and stick to the email. In my toughest weeks, putting together baskets and painting for her made me feel more connected to her and Sweet Briar. The traditions, many much older than my mother, my grandmother and myself, send the message that we are part of something much bigger and have inherited something much greater than differences that lie on the surface. Despite how different Sweet Briar and Medgar Evers College is, both places shattered preconceived notions I had about others and have made me a more educated person, both academically and personally. My path, although different from many of my Sweet Briar sisters, has made me who I am, and I would not change anything.

Cover Image Credit: Anna Lisa L. Young

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Where You Will Be Happiest Settling Down, According To Your Zodiac Sign

Use your horoscope to discover where you would be happiest settling down.
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You ever experience a stroke of wanderlust and have the urge to just pick up and move? Here's where you're headed, according to your zodiac sign.

1. Cancer – little cabin in the woods.

I'm starting with Cancer because we are currently in Cancer season (June 21 - July 22). Cancer is a water sign that is known to be easy-going and affectionate. Cancer's romanticism and obsession with happiness will leave them quite content with a little log cabin in the woods, where they can snuggle up to their love and fall asleep to the sound of rain.

2. Leo – Los Angeles.

"Hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and my cardigan. Welcome to land of fame excess."

Leos, AKA Lions, are fire signs known for their love of the spotlight and all things exciting. Fun-loving Leos belong in the city of angels, also known as, LA.

3. Virgo – the suburbs.

The name Virgo comes from the word "virgin," and the innocence also applies to their hardworking and kind personality, where many of them prove to be the purest of people. This Earth sign is known for their tendency to worry too much, therefore they belong someplace safe and suburban somewhere out west.

4. Libra – Paris

This air sign is characterized by their love of romance, and therefore day dream about the city of love: none other than Paris, France.

5. Scorpio – Canadian mountains.

Also known as Psycho Scorpio, this water sign is known for being quick-witted, mysterious, and wise beyond their years. But Scorpios aren't particular fans of anyone who isn't themselves, so they would be thrilled in a secluded mountaintop mansion in Canada where no one can get to them and they can scheme world domination in private.

6. Sagittarius – New York City.

"If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!"

This fire sign, which spans Thanksgiving and Christmas time, dreams of travelling the world. These feisty and restless people can never stay in one place doing one thing for that long. Therefore, they belong in the city of dreams AND the city that does Thanksgiving and Christmas like no one else can: the Big Apple.

7. Capricorn – New England countryside.

This earth sign is known for its down-to-earth and responsible nature. Capricorns are the dependable and trustworthy people you can always lean on. My mother, my best friend, and my boyfriend are all Capricorns, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

Capricorns are best suited for the countryside, because they value their peace and quiet so much.

8. Aquarius – Myrtle Beach.

This air sign is known for its subdued nature and love of anything having to do with sunshine, warm weather, and water. Therefore they belong in the South – namely tourist central of South Carolina: Myrtle Beach. Aquarius will be right at home among the hustle and bustle of a mini beach city year round.

9. Pisces – Hawaiian Islands.

This water sign, which is ruled by Neptune, and symbolized by the fish, obviously belongs on the water. Pisces are imaginative and artsy, too, often dreaming of a more beautiful world. Pisces should move to Hawaii because their appreciation for beauty and the ocean will be fulfilled there. They will be right at home on the pink and black sand beaches or by the natural forest waterfalls.

10. Aries – New Orleans.

This fire sign carries a strong enthusiasm for life and round-the-clock energy, which leads them to "Big Easy" New Orleans, Louisiana. Can you think of a place any more fun?

11. Taurus – Italian villa.

This Earth sign is known for being realistic, level-headed, and in tune to the natural world. Because of Taurus' love of cooking, gardening, and loving the world we're in, Taurus would be very happy on an Italian villa, with land to roam and garden flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Put a table on your patio, and Taurus is ready for a late evening, candlelit, outdoor dinner.

12. Gemini – Boston.

This air sign is symbolized by the twins because of Gemini's two personalities: the angel and the devil. And after living in Boston for two years, I discovered Boston has two sides of its own: one is the downtown, hustle and bustle of the dirty grimy city we all love anyway, and the other is the deep American history around every corner and the way Boston is all wrapped up to make it feel like a small town sometimes.

Boston has everything so Gemini will never be bored: the thrill of the city, the wonderful history of colonial America, the greenery of the Boston Common, and the water, which provides a taste of nautical life. Gemini's best fit would be a top-floor Beacon Hill apartment in Back Bay, because it's an escape from the busy city life without missing out on any of the action.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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It Is Pointless To Pity The Homeless

Guilt is the silent killer of political action.

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Two summers ago, when I was an intern at The Father McKenna Center in Washington DC, I met Jason, who was homeless. I had just finished closing the shelter's computer lab for the evening, and the attendees of the AA meeting in the shelter's cafeteria had started to say their goodbyes and disperse until next week. As I was leaving to take the subway home, and as he was leaving to walk back to his encampment, wherever it may have been, Jason and I converged with each other at the front door of the shelter, and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Jason had two children, aged four and six, both of whom were protected from him under custody by his former wife. She had made the decision to divorce him because of his drug use, which posed a danger to the couple's children. (Jason did not hesitate to admit to this.) Shortly after the separation from his family, he became homeless. He had a high school degree and some former experience doing construction work. Aged into his mid 30's with minimal employment, Jason had been struggling to find a job for years.

As we walked, he told me about his kids, and how sometimes he hears about them during occasional phone calls with his wife. For a moment, he turned his head to look at me in my eyes, and he quietly told me about how proud he was of his daughters for completing the first and third grades of elementary school.

If you are homeless, it takes an immense amount of courage to make the commitment to go to a homeless shelter. I believe that the one thing that most people struggle with, homeless or not, is the challenge of confronting one's own demons. Jason had demons, luggage, regrets, and so on - I had those too. Jason had first stepped at The Father McKenna Center shortly before I began my internship. As I performed the duties of my internship, Jason and I, together, experienced a great turbulence in our individual missions to confront our demons; and with that turbulence came sobriety. Not relief or improvement, but sobriety. True self-improvement is a year-long commitment, but self-awareness is a skill which can be utilized at any time.

Jason and I spoke several times throughout my internship. One of the last interactions I had with his before I completed my term happened again at the front entrance of the shelter. He told me that after years of searching, he had found the initiative to apply for a job. "Even though she and I needed to go our own ways," he said, "I still want to show my wife that I care about her. We're not married, but I still want to provide for her and the kids. I don't know how they feel about me, but I want to show my daughters that I am still their father, and that I love them."

When I started my internship at the shelter, I genuinely believed that I would come out of it depressed and disillusioned. But I learned to look beyond the misfortune and suffering, and with that perspective, I started to find more and more inspiration in the facets of life by which I had previously felt discouraged and depressed. I have not seen Jason in two summers, but I think about him every day, for strength.

Say, for instance, that you start to feel as though the daily grind of your summer job is starting to become too monotonous. Us undergrads are tirelessly told by our advisors that the best possible use of our time during the summer, outside of college and other than working for pay, is time spent volunteering and building up our resumes. After some online research and phone calls, you break down your volunteering options to three different nonprofit organizations in your area: Your first option is to spend 3-5 hours once a week helping a local community center care for its flower garden, fresh herb greenhouse, and wildlife sanctuary. Your second option is to spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings bathing, petting, and reading storybooks to all the dogs and cats at a nonprofit rescue shelter. Your third option is to spend 5 hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at an inner-city homeless shelter and rehabilitation center for men who have been recently released from prison.

This where the conflict begins. Deep inside, you know that volunteering at the men's shelter is, in your opinion, the most valuable kind of work you can do. Human beings require more attention than plants and pets. Humans beings need to be kind to each other, and so, you may want to volunteer at the shelter.

The problem is certainly not that nobody wants to volunteer at homeless shelters. I consider myself an optimist, and I still think that the majority of people living in the United States wish to care for and support each other. The true problem is that even when a good-minded, empathetic, caring person wants to offer their kindness to the homeless, there are layers upon layers of illusions, false impressions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and (most importantly), miscommunications which prevent them from doing so. What must truly be addressed is not how much attention is being paid to homelessness, but how attention is paid. There are many kinds of layers of illusion; the majority of them are certainly racial illusion. A vast number are economic. Others, however, are emotional. A lot are just flat-out moral as well.

The growing epidemic of homelessness, as an affliction, is the product of political injustice, racist systems, and greed. But the homeless lifestyle itself, however, is not political in nature. Homeless people are not statistics in a study, neither are they variables in a social equation. Homelessness is a daily struggle for a human life, and those who are homeless suffer. They are as emotional and as sentient as the well-off office workers who pelt them with quarters as though they're fountains.

Understanding homelessness is especially hard for people on the polar opposite side of the social/economic spectrum from the homeless. It is somehow harder for a wealthy and educated person to understand homelessness than it is for someone from lower-class origins to do so. As I said before, I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people on this Earth have the moral initiative to help those less fortunate - but this initiative is excessively overridden by the reflexive tendency most people have to compare and juxtapose themselves. This act of reflexive juxtaposition is what scares most people away from homeless shelters.

Call it what you want - "juxtaposition" is not the only word one can use to describe this feeling. Some people might call themselves "overqualified." From a political perspective, some have referred to it as "white guilt." Regardless of what you call it, it is reflexive. Homeless people, just upon sight, are registered with labels and false truths. The visceral, instinctive reaction to a homeless person is "Look forward, walk firm, and don't make eye contact." This is what needs to change.

In western society, people who grow up privileged - with parents, shelter, an education, and relationships - are subconsciously taught, unintentionally encouraged, and silently conditioned by the people around them to treat the homeless with, above all else, pity. The etiquette of reacting to a homeless person suggests something of a "passive melancholy." Like I mentioned before, under this mannerism of avoidant sorrow, homelessness is not a condition of life. It is a political symbol. The stumbling beggar in the subway and the raggedy busker on the street corner are effectively dehumanized by default; as long as they are evidently homeless, their role in the social dynamic of these public places is automatically different from yours and mine. The status of homelessness completely nullifies - no, prevents - a person's worthiness and rightful entitlement to human attribution, and without mercy, they are turned into something which is not human: a figure which is nothing but a representation of itself.

After years of riding the bus and subway, I have become aware of several different categories in which the people around me fit; I see the day laborers, who are categorized by being older men, clad in paint-stained construction pants, functioning in close-knit groups of six or seven. I see the government employees, who are categorized by the loudness of their gazes of exhaustion, directionless and unfixed, garbed in outdated albeit notably well-fitted suits, bland floral blouses, sky-blue button downs, the incredible pant suits, and khakis, and khakis, and khakis. I see the college-aged summertime interns running coffee for politicians who never remember their names, and they, too, are categorized; specifically by their calculated movements, blatantly artificial exteriors, and the endearing aura of simultaneous youthful naivety and capitalistic millennial-themed ambition (they also act like they know where they're going, when really, they don't, but they never stop to ask for directions). I see the mothers, the trust-fund white kids from Gonzaga, the beatniks from Howard, the Reagan-bound luggage-bearing vagabonds, the punks, the academics, the racists, the anarchists, the activists, the drunks, the wandering, the sleeping, and of course, the emblematic tourists in their MAGA hats, graphic tees, and jorts.

What kind of a response is demanded of those who choose to protect the weak? How are the wounded addressed by the healers? How should I talk to someone who suffers? The photographers, the journalists, and the volunteers cannot hope to rile a revolution alone. Neither can the teachers hope to raise a generation freed from toxicity alone, nor can the young politicians on the Hill hope to deliver their country to safety and stability alone. The problem of homelessness can be addressed, as can it be confronted, observed, studied, and journalized. Don't get me wrong, though - this type of action is deeply important: The awareness of a problem creates an opportunity for its solution. But the raising of awareness is not enough. The confrontation of our reality is not enough. To take the first step beyond awareness is to give attention to those who are in need of it; to attend to the weak and the wounded, and to act for their protection and their healing. In the words of the French revolutionary Simone Weil: "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."


Song suggestion: LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

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