Why I Chose Not to Attend Homecoming...
I absolutely love Spelman College. One of the best decisions that I have ever made was choosing to attend Spelman for some of the most important four years of a woman’s life. As a new alumna, graduate of the Class of 2016, and someone who was heavily involved on campus, it was nearly promised that I would do all that I can to make it to Homecoming this year.
Those who knew me from afar would probably expect me to be at Homecoming encouraging people to get out to vote or signing some pledge to vote on election day, since I gained the rep. of a “political addict” or "politics lover" (yes, these are things people called me, lol) during my time at Spelman.
Those who were my friends would probably expect me to be in the middle of someone’s tent, cup in hand, and screaming incorrect lyrics to a song that everyone probably knows the correct words but me.
However, my best friends would probably expect me to be doing some odd mix of civic engagement with a turn-up cup in hand and networking skills turned up to 1000, because balance is key.
Saturday, as I sat on a bus with a group of "Gringos" for a day trip to the north of the island, Los Haitises, I daydreamed about all three scenarios playing out as I laughed, danced, hugged, cried, and loved on all of my SpelHouse Family at our infamous Saturday tailgate. Part of me wished that I was back in Atlanta in this space and place of comfort, but it didn’t take long for me to remember why I had chosen not to go back to Atlanta for Homecoming.
It quickly became clear to me why I hadn’t returned, as I dug deeper into my discomfort throughout the day. After traveling through one of the higher altitudes of the country and our van maneuvering over the incredibly bumpy terrain, we finally arrived at our destination, El Parque de Los Haitises. Family after family exited the van before me, making it even more apparent when I got off last that I was the ONLY Black person on this trip. How could this be possible, I thought to myself. I’m living in a country that nearly 70% of the population has African blood, but opportunities to explore the beautiful land, water, and hidden gems of this country are almost always filled with White foreigners. These foreigners often do not have the same spiritual connection to land that has the blood, sweat and tears of millions of Native Americans and African slaves that were beaten, raped, and killed during the colonization of the Dominican Republic.
But for me, I felt the sweat, I could taste the blood, and I could hear the tears of this ancient community as I traveled through the caves of the Taino Native Americans and learned about the hieroglyphics, deep spirituality, and extensive culture of Tainos that influences even U.S. culture today.
Through my discomfort, I began to ask questions that maybe others were thinking, but no one ever asked. I realized if I wasn’t present to ask about relationships between African Slaves and Tainos, no one would have asked to learn about this iconic relationship. Through my discomfort, I learned that there was an opportunity for me to be a part of a movement to increase Eco Tourism for native Dominicans and Black travelers. My presence as a Black woman English and Spanish speaker could fill many gaps and build bridges between these different communities. Through my discomfort, I grew, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally, while I continued learning why it is important to articulate that I do not speak for all Black people but my experiences are a reflection of a collective reality.
This collective reality, is why Black young people choose to go to HBCUs and when we graduate it is often the reason we return for Homecoming, Commencement, and Founders’ Day. However, what happens when we don’t ever leave the comfort zone that a HBCU provides us? What happens when we don’t spend time beyond our borders learning, loving, and growing? What happens when we are too afraid to adapt tradition and mold ourselves to fit with the current time?
I believe that Homecoming is a wonderful experience for many alumnae, professors, staff and students alike, but we, as Black intellectuals have failed to spend enough money and time during Homecoming Week on challenging the status quo, informing our brothers and sisters of opportunities for growth politically, economically, and spiritually, and building towards a collective purpose.
Now, believe me. I love a good time, and I’ve had some crazy, shameful, embarrassing, and wild moments in my life, especially during college. However, we must all get to a point when we demand more from ourselves and from our communities. For the minority of individuals who return seeking opportunities to grow, learn, and build during Homecoming Week, you may find a few activities but you probably will not be satisfied and may not return each year. But, for the majority of us, we never even seek those activities nor contribute to the growth of any collective purpose that we could build on year after year.
If only our top HBCUs invested half the money and time we spend on buying kegs, chicken, and DJs on supporting our SpelHouse family running for office, could our communities be a bit more effective, grow a bit faster, and be a bit safer for our children?
If only our top HBCUS invested half the money spent for entertainers who perpetuate violence against women in their lyrics, videos, and image, on having honest, informative, and educational conversations about sexual violence, rape, and assault during College especially during Homecoming, would the national rate of women sexually assaulted during college be so high, would our little girls continue to turn to sex, money, and drugs for refuge, would our men continuously fail to condemn their brothers who have assaulted, raped, and drugged women to assert their power when they feel weak?
If only our top HBCUs spent half the money invested in bringing people “Home” on sending students abroad, could the image of a “U.S. American” be a bit more diverse, could the “White Savior” mentality be dismantled and International organizations collectively work more closely WITH communities abroad, and could I be joined by groups of Black people who are eager to explore EcoTourism abroad so I would not have to be the lone black woman when traveling with gringos to Los Haitises?
While I missed you SpelHouse this Homecoming, I have realized that the greatest opportunity I have to give back to the values and principles that Spelman taught me, is to continue in spaces where my discomfort inspires change and growth throughout the U.S. and even in the most remote places in the world.
Spelman women, don't ever forget the choice you made.