I’m still sort of surprised that my first year of college is over.
I haven’t really thought about this sort of small step forward until I started talking to some close friends as finals wrapped up. With everything else going on in the world, I genuinely forgot that this was the end of part one of four. I’m still sort of trying to think about what I thought college would be and what it was. I came in with unreasonable expectations that somehow were not just exceeded, but transformed in a way that left me more hopeful about the next three years.
I say this, of course, with the self-awareness of what’s going on with policing and the racist policies that have led to UCPD taking over the South Side, harming Black residents for decades. I cannot acknowledge or speak about my own experiences without being well aware that my privileges are coming at the expense of what happens to other people. I will not deny that it makes me evaluate how I can utilize my position while being complicit to fight against what harm this institution causes. This is something I apologize for not prioritizing enough and I am working to be more active this summer and next year.
Amidst the problems that this institution has, I would be lying if I said I didn’t find inspiring, passionate people who have been some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. I learned from upperclassmen, had banter with first-years, and built relationships with faculty who want me to succeed. It is the people who are using their resources to advocate and fight for those who should be right here with us. A time like this only further exposes how a degree, a piece of paper, an alma mater, does not make a difference in the value of your life as a Black person in America. We all deserve humanity. Period. It’s fellow Black peers and allies that are pushing for this all across the country, those who were at the sit-in at UCPD, those pushing their families to think differently, that give me hope. I trust and believe in the people who are taking the chance to explore the history of the institutions that hold power in America will do great things and take action.
Where I grew up, I was the only Black student in nearly all of my classes. I was alone almost every single time I raised an issue. As high school went on, I found some people who cared, but as a Black student with so few fellow Black peers to talk to, I felt like my energies weren’t worth it at times. But, as a college student, to find Black students with similar experiences, to be in a predominately Black community of Hyde Park (however much it is being gentrified by the university), I feel like I’m not as much of an outsider as I am when I am back “home” in the Bay. I know I didn’t spend enough time exploring throughout the South Side as I should have, but I owe it to embrace the people of the area and I will explore all of Chicago. If I want to call Hyde Park my new home, I have to do that.
There’s a lot I still don’t know how I want to write about when reflecting about my first year, especially with a whole remote quarter and the problems students faced working through that, including working on finals during protests. But, I think that there is just one sentiment overall that I’m taking with me to next year: this year was a launchpad. I am really happy with where I am at the end of this year, but I know I have so much room to grow as a person and continue to develop meaningful relationships to advance this fight forward. I am excited to go back with a grasp of the landscape and looking at what I can do to be the best human being I can be for all people. It’s a broad thing to say but I don’t know how else to articulate it. That’s the dream.