as overachieving high school students everywhere begin to receive their early decision letters in the mail, i’m reminded of my own college days at drake university in the middle of good ole des moines, iowa. go bulldogs. oh the fond – and not so fond – memories i have of that place.
i remember how frequently i threatened to drop out because i was tired of dealing with the constant micro-aggressions, macro-aggressions, and just plain old frakery that comes with being a black student at a pwi (predominately white institution). there were definitely opportunities to shine because addressing calls for diversity really just meant finding a willing brown or black person to pose for a picture, attend an event, or join a committee. yeah, we saw through it. but then again, it’s not like they were trying to hide their lack of interest either. anyway, as rafiki would say, “who cares, it’s in the past.”
the thing i remember, and truly treasure, are the moments of pure comedy with my friends in our dorm rooms on any given night because we had nothing better to do and no one wanted to study. it is those moments that i miss most as i look back on my college years. although i see my closest college friends fairly regular in we’re-all-grown-and-live-in-different-parts-of-the-country-terms, i long for those moments of random fun we enjoyed with each other. here are a few things i truly miss and would love to be doing right this very minute.
listening to gospel cds and sangin’ all three parts
ya’ll know i can’t sing to save my life, but that didn’t stop me from joining in when our gospel choir would get together and sang. i even attempted a solo in our christmas concert one year. not a disaster, but probably not a good idea either. but i will never forget practicing for that solo in candi’s room (it was right across the hall from mine) and her telling me over and over that i wasn’t quite on the right note. she even pointed her finger up and turned her head toward the ceiling to illustrate that i needed to go up more. i’d try again and miss. and candi would laugh, repeat the right note and look at me like, “you really can’t hear that?” sadly, i really couldn’t. i’m tone deaf through and through. i also remember just hanging out with my friends and listening to the latest donnie mcclurkin, donald lawrence, hezekiah walker, or kirk franklin. i would totally give anything to have nights like that today. just talking, singing, joking and being spiritually fed without thinking about it. good times!
hair salon in summer’s room
back when we were all addicted to the creamy crack, we would take turns giving each other relaxers, and mostly it was summer doing all the work. we would file into her room and take turns sitting in the chair. the application part was fine because it could be done in the confines of her cozy dorm room behind closed doors. but all kinds of awkwardness broke out when we went to the bathroom to wash it out. we were constantly bombarded with questions about why it smelled like that? what color we were going for? do we have to wash it out in the sink? couldn’t we do that later when people weren’t in the bathroom? how often did we have to do that? what is it going to do to our hair? ugh. if looks could kill, i’d probably be locked up under somebody’s jail because i was serving up daggers. just. stop. talking. but after enduring the barrage of questions, we stepped out the salon like what? and everyone knows you can’t tell a black woman nothing when she gets her hair done.
hanging out in the cafeteria like we didn’t have anywhere else to be
our freshman year we rolled deep! we used to meet for dinner at 6 in olmstead and shut it down. we would sit at a long table, eat, talk, laugh, joke, sing, and share war stories. in the beginning, we were very aware of the looks of disgust we would get from the other students because we were “loud” and “obnoxious” but after a while we stopped caring. the upper classmen would come and hang out with us and school us on the drake ways, while offering encouragement and advice. those moments of connection were like lifelines because it was a place and time to take off the masks, relax on the code-switching, and just be. you never realize how freeing it is to be yourself when you’re constantly forced to “be” someone else to make others feel comfortable around you.
watching upn on the wb sunday nights in nicole’s room
oh iowa. talk about an interesting state! one of the craziest things i remember was how we had to watch all the upn shows on the wb on sunday night. so every sunday night, after we were “done” with our homework, we would grab some floor in nicole’s room to watch the latest episode of moesha. honestly, we watched more shows but i can only remember moesha. probably because i didn’t like the parkers so i didn’t tend to watch that. i have this amazing ability to tune everything out and focus on a singular thing. i usually did my homework in the midst of the socializing going on around me. thank you adhd! everyone would be there though so it was always fun. ann, who lived in her bathrobe would drop by from across the hall, football players would stop in to say hi, and we would always order some wings from some random wing joint typical of all college towns. ann, in her robe, would pull out her jamaican spices to make ’em right, and we’d eat, watch tv, and laugh. these are the things college brochures don’t tell you about. those kinds of moments are priceless.
early morning prayers in the basement of morehouse
omg. so my first real encounter with the holy spirit was during one of these prayers. i STILL remember that moment when i felt my body warming up and i also remember having to pick myself up off the floor. yep. we reenacted that moment, and others like it, regularly throughout college. those prayers were no joke though. there is something about sacrificing sleep to seek the face of the most high in community that opens up the heavens. we would meet for prayer, then head to breakfast together before starting our day. i didn’t make it every single time (i loves my sleep more than i love food!) but i am still walking in the blessing of those prayers lifted up to heaven during those early mornings. where two or more are gathered together ….
chilling at the front desk during someones work shift
oh work study. listen, the struggle was real. we all had jobs. the most popular job on campus was to be a front desk attendant. all of my friends had this job and we would load our backpacks, grab food, and settle in at the desk, or around it, like we were all on the clock. the most popular desks were stalnaker, crawford, and carpenter. sitting at that front desk at night gave you all the juicy scoop. you knew who was creeping with who and how often. we would speak in code as we speculated about these undercover “relationships” and laugh at how clever we were to talk about the people in their faces without them knowing. the hours of laughter; my heart smiles just thinking about it.
siting in wanda’s chair crying my eyes out
every black student at drake has sat in dr. wanda everage’s chair. there was something about that chair, that once you sat it in, you crumbled into a mess of snotty-nosed, gasping-for-air, wails. i mean, serious tears here. she would always start with asking you how things were going. you’d say they were fine and you’re liking drake and all that, and then ish would get real and the flood gates opened! i know she was a mentor to many students at drake, but for the black students, she was home. just her very presence was home. i was so happy to be able to attend her retirement shindig at drake during the most recent black student reunion.
chilling at the black house when there still was a black house
my senior year, the school thought it would be a good idea to tell the black students on campus that having a black house wasn’t really necessary and maybe they should fold their culture into a hodgepodge of multiethnicity. needless to say that didn’t go over too well. i was called a lot of things during those town hall style meetings. even quoted in the paper because i called them out on their bull. we did end up losing our house, but they gave us another one a few years later. that house represented something white students at pwis never have to worry about. it was our place. it had our art. we could have our meetings. and it allowed us to have chill out space for bbqs, parties, study sessions, sunday dinners, and just general gathering. it was our living room and we had many fun times in the black house. dance breaks, come to jesus meetings, bible studies, cooking lessons, and more went down in that house.
college really is a special time in your life. you (hopefully) grow from being a child to an adult, gaining emotional and mental maturity. i really do cherish my college memories, especially the ones spent building friendships – family – with people i still maintain relationships with today. the black community at drake was small, but it was love and i’ll never forget how much it shaped me into the woman i am today. sometimes you really do wish you could go back and just sit in those moments of joy.
i have amazing relationships with the people i’ve met in seattle, but there are some things i really miss. right now, i’m homesick for good old fashion chill out time where being silly is allowed and being free is a requirement.