This weekend was one of the defining moments of my experience as a student at Lafayette College and a college student in America in general. My views were challenged and I was forced to develop an opinion about issues in the community because as the saying goes: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
The Posse Foundation is a phenomenal non-profit organization that recognizes minority public high school students in selected areas in the US and provides them with different types of support to go through college. A “posse” means a group of friends or a group of people with a common purpose. This organization provides our college campus with the best learning environment and multicultural experiences. I love my posse friends, and I get to learn something new every day I spend with them.
I was very excited when one of my friends who is a Posse Scholar reached out to me during winter break when I was in Madagascar and asked if I would like to be her Posse Plus for the Posse Plus Retreat. The Posse Plus Retreat happens once a year, and each Posse Scholar gets to bring a plus one to the retreat to participate in a meaningful conversation about all sorts of issues that are present on our campus. This year’s retreat took place at Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Honesdale, PA which is almost two hours away from campus.
This year’s theme was “Sticks and Stones: Language and Speech in a Diverse Society.” This theme resonated with current issues on our campus and in the US. One of the topics we discussed was the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, freedom of speech, and an anonymous online platform called Yik Yak. Additionally, we discussed how we see people like Donald Trump exercising their power and “right” to degrade minorities in the US. The Posse Plus Retreat provided the 200 Lafayette students and faculty members with a safe space to discuss these issues. This was the safest I have felt at Lafayette to openly share things that have been pressing on my heart for the longest time.
My favorite part of the retreat was when we went into groups to discuss topics of our choice. One of the topics was “African Americans and Africans in America.” Upon arriving in the US, I was very conscious of my skin color and my ancestry. I was aware of the stereotypes from people who thought I was African American and those who knew I was African. Carrying those two “identities” was not an easy task especially because I did not associate with the struggle of African Americans in this country. I got actively involved in the discussions on campus but there was always this divide between me as a “black activist” and the “Black/African American activists.” The latter have a lived experience that I do not have which explains the great divide between African Americans and Africans in America.
More importantly, this retreat brought up questions that I will be working to answer in order to fine-tune my identity. The retreat left me with the need to reevaluate the subtleties of my life ranging from the kind of music I listen to, to the comments that I let slide and other sorts of micro aggressions. And I was happy to have a new quest and puzzle to solve: who am I and what do I stand for?
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