Living Diversely . . . Syracuse

continued from Living diversly…part 2

Graduation came and went. Syracuse offered a program called summer institute that allowed incoming minority freshman to take a few classes and bond with other students before the school year officially began. I was so excited to begin college early and to meet other students. As kids often do, I immediately began to form alliances with many of the young ladies in our dorm. Eventually we were known as “the rat pack”. We shared music, ate together, laughed together, cried together, and of course, imagined which boys in our program would make the best boyfriends.

The ratpack. That’s me on the top far right.

One evening, after we had recently gotten settled into our dorm, I took a walk with a few friends. One happened to be a young black man named Hollis. He was very quiet and had been hanging around us for most of the evening, not saying a word. When he finally did open his mouth and speak I was floored to hear the thickest Spanish accent roll out. He was my first Dominican friend. Through him I learned about Dominican pride and how upset he would get when people thought he was African American. My mind was blown. Though I had a vague idea of how large and varied the diaspora is, Syracuse opened up a new world for me. In Atlanta, black folks were just black—not African, or Latin, or Caribbean. The most ethnically diverse of my high school friends were those of us who thought we were part Cherokee Indian. Through SI, I made friends from Guyana, Antigua, Haiti, Liberia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Ghana, Cuba, and more, most by way of New York City! Syracuse was already proving to be just the experience I was hoping for.

My art classes wouldn’t begin until the fall, but I did take creative writing, philosophy, semiotics, and other classes that I don’t remember a thing about. It was just so much fun to be on campus when it was warm and quiet and learn more about my new friends and their dreams.

Fall quickly came and I moved into the freshman dorm, Brewster/Boland, or BB as it was called. I had a single room about the size of a closet. There was a twin bed (extra long, obviously), a chair and a desk, a dresser, and a metal wardrobe. I hung a giant poster of Shemar Moore (my celebrity crush at the time) on the wall and called it home. I was so excited to be on my own in college. My mother confessed to me later that she cried all the way home listening to tapes I used to make of my six-year-old self singing and playing when I was still “her baby”. I can’t imagine the bitter-sweetness of it all of raising a child.