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 celebrating 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 year), with two words on the back.
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.
“They 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.