Learning and growing.

What year are you here?

I’m a junior.

What book were you reading?

I was reading Faces of the Bottom of the Well by Derrick Bell.

What is it about?

He talks about how systemic racism is still very much present, but he explains it in a way that kind of opens–in my opinion–my eyes to the issue as black male. So it’s really interesting. I really like it. It’s for Intro to Africana Studies; it’s Africana Studies 205. It’s a really interesting book! It’s given me a lot of different narratives.

His writing is really, kind of pointed and I think I like it that way because if you can’t be direct and straight-to-it about a certain subject, then you kind of skip around some points. And he doesn’t really do that. I’m really enjoying it.

Do you think you want to emulate that in your own life–being direct in how you communicate with others?

I think…well okay, yes. I think I am already very direct. And I’m trying to actually reverse that kind of quality in myself because sometimes being too direct intimidates people and I’ve learned, like, not to do that. [laughing] So I’m just trying to pull that back a little bit. But I do think having a more direct way of speaking to people and communicating is a great way just as a practice as a human.

What’s something you’ve already been able to reflect on while reading that? You were saying it opened your eyes to how you see your own life.

Well, for example, he was talking about — I don’t know if it was personally him or if he was telling a story of somebody — but, basically it was talking about how Martin Luther King Day is like a victory for Black people and African American people as a whole, but it doesn’t help the still current factors — low socioeconomic status and less education and things that we are still at a disposition for. So, it’s just like, wow. Yes, we celebrate and it’s great and it’s still used as a white narrative like, “we gave you this.” Like, “you guys still have the right to vote.”

It talked about more stuff about how we have these basic rights and we’re guaranteed racial equality, yet we’re still kind of fighting for them in this day and time. So he used the Martin Luther King Day example, and I was like, what, oh my God, I’m so shook right now. Like this is so crazy; he’s so right. And the fact that we have it and we celebrate it, but it still does not help the fact that there are currently black people suffering from this systemic oppression that still exists today.

One thing we get to do from listening to others and learning through other people’s experiences is we get to reflect on our own, too. So I’m glad you’re also getting this process through this reading.

Also, I really like your bracelet!

Thank you.

Did somebody make that for you?

I made it myself. So, Phi Sigma Phi is having recruitment and one of their nights was arts and crafts. And so, I started off doing a kind of twisted version and I learned that I was doing it wrong. And so, I started doing it right and then, I was just like, you know what, I’m tired of doing this. So, I just kind of, did this. But I like it’s not…I’m usually really in tune with form and symmetry. I really like symmetry. Like, my favorite number is four.

That’s my favorite number as well!

I like evenness and symmetry, and so this was a shock to me that I was like, oh my gosh, I kind of live for this. Because I like uniform.

Yeah, and it kind of makes you step outside your comfort zone.

Yeah, and it’s so crazy that something so little can go into something like that.

Do you think you’ll continue to wear it?

Oh, yes. I do think I will continue to wear it because I really like the colors that are associated with it. And it was just a little fun thing that ended up being like, okay, this is kind of personal now. Okay, I’ll keep it.

So it sounds that between your bracelet and your book you’re challenging a lot of your own values and your beliefs this year.

Yeah, and I think that’s a good part of growth. Especially within your own self. Because if you can’t grow and learn and have more knowledge, then how are you expected to survive in this environment? Just like one, as a college student. One, as a person in the world, that’s how you succeed in life basically. Learning and growing. Like, it’s so crazy that two little things far from each other are placed in the same category.

Yeah, no I just thought, “I really like where he’s going.” You challenge yourself to think outside of your own box. I really appreciate that. It’s amazing.

How do you think you do that for others? How do you challenge others or help others grow?

That’s an interesting question. Well, in my Africana Studies class, I think in terms of Black identity and things of that nature, I think alluding to and talking about the community in itself, and talking with the community and trying to understand our place as a whole is a great way to do that. And think we do do that in some ways, and so that’s good. Personally, I don’t know how I can help people grow, because I’m still growing myself and I don’t want to infringe upon anybody else’s movement. I may do subtle things that I may not realize that I can’t speak on right now. But also, I don’t know actively how I help people grow. [laughing] It’s kind of a hard question because you don’t really think about it that often, especially if you’re really focusing on yourself and trying to do things yourself. But like, maybe sharing my experience with people can also help them grow. Just different things like that.

And how would you like to see society grow? Like, in the future, what do you want for you and your family, your friends?

Definitely along the lines of race relations I do want to see more equality but also equity within race. And I think just as a society to learn we are actually all equal and we all deserve the same basic rights, but also the same treatment and the same attitude for all of us across the board. And I just want to see society grow to learn that we, as a people, need to not only be uniform, but a forward-thinking society. Because I think some people fail to realize that we are the future. And if we continue to use the same concepts that were used in the past, it’s like history repeating itself. And so it’s like, why repeat yourself when we can grow and become a better society as a whole.

What lesson have you learned from those around you? Like those people really close to you?

I learned a lot of basic things just about my identity as a whole, but also about the world. And how sometimes you can be so cut off from realizing what actually is happening in the world. I can’t really speak on that, because that’s a much more deeper, philosophical type of thing. See, I am just trying to get past everything that’s on the surface, so I’ve never really thought about that, but that’s a good question to think about from now on: how do I surround myself with people and how do I learn from them?

But I guess I do surround myself with people that I am similar to. And then being that we are similar, we can grow together and learn about each other. But, I never really thought about how I actually learn [from them].

Is there something you want other people to know about you or that you want to tell other people?

Um, I don’t know what I would want anyone to know about me other than I’m just an average college student that’s just trying to make his way through this academic environment and live his best life. I guess to people out there–to stem from all the things I’ve just said–I would take life slowly, and try to learn and try to implement different processes and thoughts and forward ways of thinking in your life and see how it changes. But also, to actively self endow. Or self-search. It’s more of my own own philosophy, I feel like you have to know yourself in order to be able to know other people. And allow yourself to be opened up and things like that. And I have had the worst time through actually getting to the point of like, oh, okay this is why I am the way I am. This is why I can’t connect with certain types of people. And this is why I work on this and that, and the other. Self-identity is so important and I feel like sometimes we don’t even have enough time to think about that. But it’s so important in the fact that it helps us connect with other people around us in the world.

I really appreciate the way you use words. It just flows very well.

That’s actually so crazy because I’ve just been trying to work on that, too. I used to think of something to say, but what I would think would not be what I said. And it kind of just like bunched everything together and didn’t make sense. So I’ve been trying to use forms of language that are not only easier to understand but still hold the same intellect and intelligence, in a way.

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