More than a label, More than a month

I could have sworn that this quarter just began a week ago, let alone Black History Month, yet somehow there are three weeks left before these classes are over. This is my final post on the black history month subject.

But that’s the thing, it isn’t simply a subject to me— just because tycho-atsma-181053.jpgwe spend a month celebrating black heritage doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of who we all are every single day, 365 days a year. I walk around this campus not only underrepresented by the color of my skin, but overwhelmed by this life I hold.

Every day, I am reminded that no matter our race and the history behind our heritage, we are all still human.

Yesterday, I spent my typical Thursday night working on chemistry and studying with Nick in the common room of my dorm. Even after everyone left, we hung out for a while just talking and somehow, we ended up on the broad spectrum of life.

Why do we live our lives the way we do?

Is it always going to be simply one step to the next?

After 12 years of education to get into college, do we work through college to get a job, before working that job to pay the bills and finally, raising our own children until it’s their turn?

Are we going to look back one day and realize that we forgot to live?

anders-jilden-87205.jpgEven more than representing Cal Poly, more than what people see in the color of our skin, it seems that what we get out of this life comes down to how we want to live it— how we live it, and for what. We all have a certain amount of control on how things turn out for us, just take a look at my blog post last week… I could be an English major, Kinesiology major, or something else entirely. The future is a story yet to be written.

So why does it feel like some of us already know what’s coming?

I’ve been told that the problem with our generation, universally across each of us, is that we are always rushing from one thing to the next that we never take a moment to breathe it all in. This is life isn’t it? I have to admit, amidst the midterms and the planning, it takes me a minute to remember that we only have so much time in the day to appreciate the fact that I saw the sun rise in the morning. This is a beautiful life; one the we just might let slip through our fingers if we’re not careful.

Have you ever looked at a friend or a family member for a quick second and found yourself caught in a moment of appreciation for who they are to you? I know I’ve found myself doing that a lot more lately, like seeing my parents this last weekend or even just hanging out with Nick last night. Even though this campus is primarily white, somehow my closest group of friends is one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever consistently been around. Some days I catch myself looking from one of them to the next and wondering, what does it mean to be who you are?

wil-stewart-7771Though I may be so much more than my skin tone, it is still something that will define me and every single one of us for the rest of our lives. The month of February represents a large part of who I am, but that does not mean that this is the only time of year our heritage is recognized. It’s like a birthday or even Valentine’s Day— just because there is separate day of the year to celebrate something does not mean that you show any less love to those people for the other 364 days of the year.

A person’s pigmentation is more than a label or a stereotype.

Heritage celebration is so much more than a single month of remembering the Martin Luther King’s or the Harriet Tubman’s of our past.

Who we are and the lives that we strive for come down to what is in our hearts and what we do with the intelligence we hold to make this world into something better.

Life is about improvement, accomplishment… The little victories I know we can all achieve.  

Take a look in the mirror for me, look past the colors you see or the texture of your hair. Tell me one thing: did you find a way to live this life today? I don’t mean going to work, or to class, or simply getting out of bed this morning… Did you live this life today?anja-137284

Because with everything else that you see in yourself or what others see in my generation, I would like to believe in something more. I would like to believe that things can change, the pace of this world can be something worth living in every day, and that color of my skin can be something more than a visual representation of everything I know I can be.

P.S. To the Class of 2017, I’ve got another post for you next week so be on the lookout for a little advice on college, graduation, and everything in between!

Strong Independent Black Woman

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. rock-eautyMy parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.


Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am crock-in-handurrently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak?

There’s something about growing up as a young minority child in the twenty first century— it’s made me who I am. My parents have raised me to be intelligent in every way possible, responsible for the mistakes I make, and strong enough to push past anything that may hold me back. They told me that I am capable of everything I put my mind to. What does my mom like to tell me?

I am a strong independent black woman.

There are things that I am that will change as I get older, for I am a teenager, but not for much longer, and I am a college freshman, but only for another four months…These labels are temporary, as many are in this life. But what is one label I can never shed? The color of my skin.

So why not be proud of it?

Last week I talked a lot about representing the African American minority here at Cal Poly, with an even smaller group in the STEM careers. It is something I am proud of and am reminded that I am entirely capable of— coming into the school as a student in science is something I believed I wanted.

Now I’m not so sure.

Because as you all know, I LOVE writing. If I had to do something for the rest of my life, it will involve english no matter what happens. All my friends here know that I love to write as major part of my life, it’s hard not to know from the amount of quotes I’m always dropping into conversations. Even though I am currently a chemistry major with an idea to switch into Kinesiology, like I said, things are changing.

If you’ve been following my blog posts since the beginning, you might remember the quote from my parents that said “minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.” I used to think those were two completely different things… Lately, I’ve been thinking that they are one in the same. What if I can do both in one, two birds with one stone so-to-speak. Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.BIRD PICTURE.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I an an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow through in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.

Like my parents taught me, I am capable of anything I put my mind to.

But wait? What about representing black females in STEM, especially here at Cal Poly?

Here’s the thing about being a minority, currently headed towards a career where I believe we need far more representation than we already have— we are underrepresented and under pursued in STEM, however it isn’t my job to change that. So what is my job? It is my job to find something I know I can excel at and go change this world with everything I am, whether it means that I write a book to impact just one person’s life or find another way to have an impact. No matter where I end up, I know one thing for sure:

I am a representation of the color of my skin. And I am ready to show that we are capable of anything and everything we put our minds to.

Maybe I could be good at both writing and a science centered career, I see nothing wrong with that. My only issue, I don’t want to be good at anything… I want to be great. The people who have had a large impact in my life, from my parents and my best friends to celebrities and authors, have all done something big to change a part of who I am. How did they do that? By being exceptional at being who they are and the jobs they are here to do. Don’t get me wrong, good is always okay. But great… Now that’s something I can aim for.

I am eighteen, I am a college freshman, and I am an African American. Two out of these three things will change within the next four months of my life. But that last one? That last one is something I walk around with on my skin every single day of my life and I am proud to represent, it has made me who I am. So whether I do follow

read-book-tablethrough in STEM or do something different all together, I plan to be the best I can possibly be and nothing less.

For I am a representation of women, black students, and everything inbetween. Minor in something you love, major in something you can pay the bills with.

Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can find a way to make it both.

Time for Change

Think of the words black excellence and what comes to mind? Maybe it makes you think about my blog post last week or the poem I posted on Monday. Or at Howard University, it not only defines the pride of the student body, but also the truth of how excellent each and every student there is, from their academics to their talents. But what does it mean here at Cal Poly?

What does it mean for me?mountain beauty.jpg

Here at Cal Poly, as 1/240, the words black excellence mean representation. Sitting in my cultural Kinesiology class on Monday, we did an exercise on privilege throughout the classes demographic. The rules were simple: Take a look at the list in front of you, from not hearing racial slurs towards you to living as a majority, and add one for each that fits, subtract one for each that does not. As my class went outside and demonstrated out numbers by stepping off of a line together, the gap in our equality was unmistakable.

I took 15 steps back. The one person that far back with me? The only other African American in my class.

This is what I don’t think we emphasize enough here at Cal Poly. We are told to celebrate our similarities in that we are all here and getting a good education, but what about our differences? What about the things that make each and every one of us unique? This campus claims to be diverse, but I only see that in the sexuality of its student body. We are still a majority white campus, not to say this campus isn’t full of brilliant minds, but it’s hard to look around and know that I can count the number of black people from all of my classes this year on one hand.perilice road.jpg

There is something missing.

I believe in the beauty of diversity, of all different people from different backgrounds and different cultures striving to come together and create a better future in this world. There is something so different about a group of people who all think differently or have experienced a seperate lifestyle from one another— the ideas that can come out of a group like that, it just might change the world.

Yet I don’t know when that kind of change will happen, not when there are only 240 of us here to attempt that change at such a well reputable University. We can’t do this on our own, nevertheless it seems that nothing is changing. What about the rest of the brilliant minds who never got the chance to go to college? Or those caught up in the trials of life, too busy taking care of families and getting food on the table to even consider going back to school? We all come from different walks of life, different cultures, ethnicities, and opportunities. In a school where we take pride in our “diversity” and a world where it seems we will become the change that generations have been waiting for, I have to wonder what kind of difference we can possibly make when everyone is on the same page only because the majority is writing the book.

There has to be more than this.

In a world where tomorrow seems like it is in our hands, yet so far away at the same time, this idea leaves me restless in wondering what is to come. I can only hope it will be a brighter future than any one of us could imagine. In a quote by Maya Angelsplitshire-7553ou, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” This world is one of beauty, from both the people in it to the capabilities we all hold. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to change this world we live in. Maybe if we’re lucky, if we can play our cards right, the words black excellence can mean more than a minority here at Cal Poly.

Black Excellence

little-lightsIn the spirit of Black History Month, I did some writing after the spoken word performance last Wednesday. Before I knew it, pen was running on paper and this is what I had left in my hands. It’s funny how you find inspiration in all the places you never think to look. This year, I have been paying more attention to the people around me, who I am, and what this month means to me. In doing so last week, somehow I found a new rhythm to run with, so without further ado, here is my new poem and I hope you enjoy it— feel free to leave any comments below!

 

Black Excellence

 

How to write a love song, how to feel inspired

when things just ain’t so pretty—

my people are so tired.

What about the times you left us

shot down on the streets,

for making music out of tragedy,

for walking to our own beats?

shadows-on-mountainWhat about the rest of us,

the writing on the wall,

the scripture found within our hearts

when He says, let the future fall

where it may? For we have a right to stand

to ride out in the heart of the storm

in a holy war, of love but so much hate

of anything but silence for he said

We have a dream.

To let our hearts sing with the faith that we bring,

sing it out sing it loud, give your brothers and sisters

a hand.

For we are beautiful, we are strong,

this world is all we’ve got.

This is our day, this is our chance,

raise your voice and take a stand,

as we are searching for the truth

in a world where promises come with fingers crossed.

But we are not lost.

As we stand together, right fist high in the airProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

that is not America, that is not the beauty we see,

that is cutting us down at the knees.

This idea we stand for is so much more than a crowd of people

with something to say, something to believe in

and no way to have their voices heard.

This is more than America, this is more than a stand,

this is more than than any one of us.

For you look at my skin and I know what you see:

light-mountainA hoodie, or some skittles,

maybe everything you think we would be.

Because they say black lives matter

but their actions do not make sense

when I see beauty, I see strength,

I see everything we are.

For this is a stand, these are our voices,

and this,

this is what we call Black excellence.

Unapologetically Black

1/240

More than a student, a woman, and a freshman here at Cal Poly, this is the number that represents me.

I am one out of 240 black students here.

Welcome to Black History Month, one that I started off with something different here this week. On Wednesday night, I went to an open mic series celSplitShire-01466.jpgebrating this month in our theatre called Another type of Groove with one of my best friends. Neither of us were sure what to expect, but what we got was something more that we imagined it would be.

What we got was a beautiful expression of color, honesty, and the complete art of spoken word.

If you haven’t heard of him, I suggest you take a quick look at Judah 1 (click that link) who was a part of the series on Wednesday. As both a writer and someone who absolutely loves spoken word, he was something completely different to listen to. From the idea of love to his experiences in watching the young boys he teaches in camps or prisons years later, Judah 1 had something to say. And he said it well. Throughout the night we heard from him, his apprentice, and several other students here at Cal Poly who simply believed in something strongly enough to tell us about it. Some people spoke of the tragedies we see around the world and others shed light on a truth some of us may not be able to understand. Though there were students of all colors present in that room, I left that theatre with one idea left in my head.

This is Black Excellence.

Though there may only be about 240 of us here at this school, there is something so different about being around people just like you… Something I don’t think others understand easily. It’s like changing my hair extensions every few months in high school and having girls who knew me ask me if I cut my hair— there are things that I no longer have to explain or no longer have to try to be for other people when I’m surrounded by those just like me. As true as it is, it’s hard to believe that being around people of color here brings such a feeling of home and familiarity that I cannot find in most places. Even our Black Student Union club has a T-shirt to represent who we are: 1/160 (the number from last splitshire-5620year), with two words on the back.

Unapologetically Black.

Because that is who we are, this is what we represent, and we are proud to celebrate everything we are with the representation of our history reflected on our skin every day. Last week, I shared with you a poem by Langston Hughes, I, Too. Within those words is a past that we will always be bound to. Black History Month can be told through story after story, from the leadership of Dr. King whom we celebrated last month, to the literature of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

This month is so much more than the one chapter in a US history book that tells you about slavery, or remembering that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that “freed” the slaves… It’s about remembering the black members of society who are recognized for something more than the color of their skin. We can’t just remember the Barack Obamas or Harriet Tubmans of the world, what about Marc Hannah who helped to create the 3D technology in films like Jurassic Park, or Patricia Bath who helped to create The Cataract Laserphaco Probe for removing cataract lenses. Every culture has it’s own story, it’s own journey to get to what it has become today, and there are so many people we aren’t educated about who paved the path that we now walk on. This month represents my culture, the history so many of us do not know behind it, and the pride my parents raised me with to be a part of it.

And to think, Cal Poly almost made the mistake of making my brother 1/239.

From the inspiration of the past and the open mic night on Wednesday, I have found myself writing a lot in the last three days. There was one line a student read on the last set before the event ended that I still haven’t forgotten.

youthThey tell children to pick out the love from the cracks in our promises.”

What does that mean to you? Think about that line, what it says about the reliability of our human nature, and hold onto the fact that I’ve got something new to share with you. I promise to be timely with this one— no cracked promises here. Keep an eye out for a new poem on Monday, one that goes right along with the theme of this month and a new style that I’ve got to say, I’m quite fond of. 

So here’s to another week of midterms, a fantastic Black History Month, and my new poem to come. Have a wonderful week, wherever you are in the world, stay safe, and be on the lookout for some new writing soon.