UCLA Black History Month

In Honor Of Black History Month, Please Tell Me Why There Are So Few Black Students On My Campus

Yes, I'm Black and no, I'm not an athlete.

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Every day on my campus, hundreds of kids from all over Los Angeles county tour the school. As young as what appears to be ten, these students are given just a glimpse of college life long before even thinking of applying themselves. They stare at us as we walk to class and interact with their friends about who and what they see.

And what do they see? I can imagine their excitement as they load off the bus. College is the equivalent to freedom, by most people's standards. And while I do feel some sense of liberation as I walk the campus I consider home, I am repulsed by the lack of student diversity, particularly Black student presence.

The year is 2019. The school in discussion here is the NUMBER ONE public university in America, the University of California, Los Angeles. I am a proud Black Bruin, but I am one of few. Of the 31,002 undergrads on UCLA's campus, only 1,623 are Black.

I can only imagine the confusion and frustration felt by the young potential Bruins who tour our school each day. A given tour consisting of students from the LA area is more likely diverse than a UCLA lecture hall. As of now, STEM courses are being institutionally directed towards male students and diversity classes tend to be made up of the racial or social group the course is titled after. As an example, of the numerous African American studies courses I've taken, I can easily say more than 95% of each course was made up Black Bruins. Ethnic studies courses are great, but what good do they do when the only people taking the time to educate themselves on other people's cultures are the very people who have been forced to assimilate? Newsflash UCLA, but your ONE SINGLE diversity requirement ain't doin sh*t.

I love UCLA. It has given me a home but frankly, I'm appalled at UCLA's treatment of racial minorities. Just four years ago, a Kanye-Western themed raid hosted by two chapters of the Greek Community turned ugly when students dressed in baggy clothes and padded bottoms, while also using makeup and other materials to alter skin tone and appropriate Black culture. Following severe backlash from the UCLA community, a written statement expressed the intent of the raid's theme was to "celebrate (popular) culture."

My response to that is this: You CANNOT and WILL NOT raid our culture one day, and try to celebrate with us the next.

By the time I came to UCLA, Sy Stokes had graduated, but I hope some young, potential students got to speak with him when they toured the campus during his time as a Bruin. As a Black Bruin, he should be remembered during Black History Month. In a chilling spoken word poem about UCLA's diversity, Stokes reveals glaring statistics about Black male students, or the lack thereof.

UCLA has many amazing feats, not to mention numerous sports achievements. In 2013, UCLA had more NCAA Championships than Black Male freshmen. I'm not against sports. I've been extremely athletic my whole life and I've been to Wooden to workout every day this week. I love belonging to a college community that values athleticism and sports excellence.

BUT, and this is heavy, but (hence the caps), why is UCLA not more racially inclusive towards African Americans?

In 2012, UCLA had 660 African American male students. 429 of them were undergraduate student-athletes. Again, I love sports, but food for thought: what would happen to the Black Bruin population if UCLA had no sports program? I remember when I came to visit campus, almost everyone who looked like me was wearing an athletic backpack. Now in 2019, I am a Black Bruin myself, but I am one of few, and significantly fewer when you don't count the student-athlete population.

I want the kids who come to visit UCLA to feel like they can relate to the students the see and potentially admire on campus. Many students who visit my school have a dream of attending. It was my dream school too. I can imagine the resonance UCLA has on the young kids who visit and tour repeatedly because the school is amazing. Students of all backgrounds should feel represented when they come here.

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Dear Soon-To-Be Seniors

These are a few things we'd like to tell you about Senior year.
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Dear soon-to-be high school seniors,

Goodbye. As the class of ahead of you, we've watched you grow, always one step behind us. As we graduate, there are some things I'd like to tell you about your last year of high school.

Yes, Senior year can be just as amazing as everyone says it is, if you make it that way. But don't think it's a blow-off year with no work. This year may hold some of the most stressful times of your life.Be prepared for late nights writing papers or hard tests that could make or break your graduation status. However, don't stress too much about homework. A question I often asked myself this year was, "in twenty years, will I remember staying up till 2am studying for Econ? Or will I remember a fun night with my friends?" Ok, probably not the best advice if you don't have the best of grades, but most of the time you stress yourself out for no reason and miss out on fun things.

Another thing, try to get on the college grind early. If you haven't already, start looking at colleges and applying! Then narrow it down as soon as you can. You don't want to be stressed about that decision in the last month of senior year. Honestly, the sooner you can make your decision, the happier and less stressed you will probably be.

It's not too late to join new things either; a lot of people join a sport or a club senior year and have a lot of fun because of it. So try that thing you've always wanted to join! Speaking of which, go to prom! I won't tell you prom is the best experience of your life because for some people it's not, but it's pretty amazing. Don't stress too much about getting a date, either the right guy/girl will show up, or you'll just go with your friends and still have a blast.

Don't be too rude to the underclassmen. You were that young just a few years ago. And they're the ones who usually put your senior nights together, so make sure you thank them. Also keep in mind that they are looking up to you. Remember those seniors you looked up to just a few short years ago? Be a good example. Take your place in the school as Seniors and continue where we left off; carry on the legacy of your school and be proud of it.

If your school does Kairos (or a similar senior retreat), be absolutely open to it! If it's your thing, enjoy it! If it's not your thing, still try to be open to it. You don't have to love it, but at least don't hate on it before you've even been. Bonding with your class is a big part of senior year. I made so many new friends this year that I never thought I would if it hadn't been for Kairos.

Speaking of which, be open to new friends. Whether they're seniors or not, talk to everyone. In a few months, you may never see those kids again, so it's worth getting to know them past just being friends on Facebook. Also, don't give up on dating people in your class. Yeah, there's only a few months left and you've spent the last 4 years with these people, but there might be one person out there who could change your whole year for the better if you give them the chance.

Above all, enjoy it. You only get one senior year, so make it count. Go to everything you possibly can: every football game, dance, party, musical, bonfire, etc. Enjoy wearing the jersey of your team for the last time, taking your last bow on your high school stage, and turning in your last final, because it will all be gone within the blink of an eye. You'll find yourself walking down the aisle in a cap and gown of those same school colors you thought you despised (but really, you'll secretly miss). You'll look at your favorite teachers lined up behind you and your family sitting in front of you, and most importantly your class around you, and I hope, I really hope, you don't regret a single moment of senior year.

Cover Image Credit: Anna Skog

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College Can Be Difficult, But Trust Yourself, Girl

Life can throw you curveballs sometimes, and times can get tough, but it is SO important to pick yourself up and trust that you can do anything.

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I'll be honest, this school year was one of the hardest years of my life. There were lots of moments throughout the year that I just wanted to go home and get away from it all. I had to be reminded that I have been raised to try as hard as you possibly can, and I was doing that. It took some determination and time, but I didn't give up.

No matter how bad I felt, I stayed and persevered.

Now that I am home for the summer, I have been reminiscing on the past two semesters of school. At the beginning of the school year, I had a much different idea of how it would go. It was going to be "my year," but somehow while the year was going on, I felt that I had been completely wrong. It's easy to come to quick conclusions when life doesn't exactly go your way. Conclusions like "this year has been the worst year ever" and "I can never get a break" were often popping up in my head. My grades weren't where I wanted them, and I was surprised by a lot of occurrences that I never expected to happen (imagine a wild ride). I found out who my true friends are and who I could rely on, and luckily, my circle only grew. Being extremely extroverted, it was hard for me to get out and just do something. Being in this "rut" took a toll on me. I had to make those hard decisions about doing what was best for me in the long run instead of doing something just for the moment. Trust me when I say, this was NOT easy at all.

Through all the tears and change all around me, I decided to proceed to the finish line because I am NOT a quitter.

I decided that it was time for me to allow myself to fully, undeniably be me. I wanted to start doing the little things I enjoy again like working out, taking pictures, and simply just going out to do anything. I started forcing myself to take any opportunity that came my way, and it helped. One of the things that brought me so much joy was kickboxing – talk about therapeutic, people! Kickboxing at least three times a week helped my mood shift so much, and it was a start to seeing me again. I am so blessed with friends who would come over at, literally, any time of the day. Spending time with them helped me more than they could ever know. We did anything from just hanging out in my living room to splurging on a fun dinner. Through everything that I was doing daily, I was learning how to rely on myself. Looking back now, I have never really had to know what it felt like to rely mainly on myself. I did get so much help from my family and friends, but what good could their help do if I didn't want to help myself first?

Even though I felt like this was one of the worst years of my life, it taught me so much more than I ever expected. Looking back now, I grew so, so much. I learned how to smile when times get tough. I learned that it really is okay to not be okay sometimes, and it will be okay eventually. I learned that it's okay to ask for help because we weren't made to do life alone. Most importantly, I learned how to trust myself. My hope for anyone reading this, you will learn from my experience that the worst seasons get better. I am in such a good place right now because I never gave up, and I will continue to never give up. In a short amount of time, I am seeing how far I have come and how much I grew.

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