Never in a million years did I think that I would attend college at the age of twenty-seven. This is not to say that I believed I was not intellectually savvy or cool enough to hang with the young—but in America this is the time when you are suppose to be working on your first house, family, and looking at future pension plans.
Since that time, I decided to leap and do the unthinkable, enrolling into Richland Community Collegeforone year, and transferring to The University of Houston in August 2005. I told myself that if I had to sell everything that I owned, I was going to make it regardless of the status quo.
It was definitely hot thatsummer, moving from Dallas, Texas to Houston—the nation’s energy capital. Leaving all of my family, friends, and former abusive boyfriend was definitely what I needed in order to see who I was, on my own terms. Star (my Ford Ranger) and I drove down interstate 45 and arrived at Cougar Place Dormitory. It would later resonate as Cougar Place Projects.
I had no idea what I was infor—forthe next three years of mylife. The single room was small (248sqft.) with one window facing the football field, a bathroom that connected to my suitemates room, one closet, a desk, bookcase, with no kitchen. I had the option of choosing a kitchenette, but I chose the latter making up my own culinary solution: the microwave.
Room #214 was not what I was accustomed to, but what I had to deal with in order to become the first graduate in my family from a four year university. Needless to say, it took a quick minuteforme to get the ropes down with the collegiate system, a city within a city.
Daily I would arrive in my small humble adobe from class and think about what I learned, and wondered why as an English major, I was only assigned to read White literature. No one cared about the darker hues of the world. Thereafter, I questioned everything, and it cost me a lot. I remember when I received my first (C-) on a research paper, I called my godmother and cried my eyes out.
Eventually, I mastered theirregurgitated writing system.I experienced racism on a daily basis in the most secluded part of the university system, the Honors College too. This gave birth to a new revolution within my spirit, to become an advocateformy race and to stand upformy beliefs.
Let’s start. We will dub the professor Dr. Ugly, who assigned a book by a white author, and the first page of his novel started out with the word “nigger” which was continuously saturated, throughout the book.
He never once thought twice about the two African-American students in his classroom, nor explained his reasoningforchoosing the book. I was so appalled and decided to revive the spirit of Black Power.
Something just started to happen within my mind, I was like the detective in Paul Auster’sNew York Trilogy, transforming into many characters to solve the problem at hand. Praying day and night to figure out what I could do to make administratorsseethat African-American culture was important—not to mention the University sits in the heart of a Black Community, “Third Ward.”
Hurricane Katrina hit in early September of 2005 and countless students matriculated to the university.
The Daily Cougar, the campus newspaper published several comic strips mocking African-American students as refugees. My mind was steaming like overcooked vegetables in a microwave and I was anxious to do something.
After countless run-ins with campus administration, students, reading works by Richard Wright, Sherman Alexie, Alicia Gasper de Alba, Wole Soyinka, and Alice Childress, I felt it was my job to stand, with my fist in the air, proudly.
It dawned on me two years later, traveling to The National CouncilforBlack Studies Conference in San Diego, California that I should start a Black Newspaper. The first African-American Newspaper on campus since the early nineties entitled:Songhai News The Black Collegiate Voice-UH,its first issue debuted in spring of 2007.
People were actually digging what I conceived in a room that barely had room to breathe.Living within campus housing changed me a lot, molding me into the woman that I’ve become and viewing the world from a new cultural perspective. Meeting people from different countries, listening to their opinions and making my own consensus regarding their rhetoric was beautiful.
Many other transformations manifested from within my humble bubble.
Then, my Grand-mother passed, Star was given back to the Ford dealership, and I prepared myself to buckle downforthe last two years of undergraduate coursework ahead.
Eventually I would take major steps to leave the country, visit Ghana, West Africa, and Curenavaca, Morelos (Mexico) and understand what true culture was about and had to adapt.
Meeting Elizabeth Catlett, the great African-American sculptor/ artist, who was in her early nineties, added a beautiful transformation to my repertoire waiting to burst open. At that moment I realized becoming a cultural anthropologist wasforme.
I returned back to my room and realized that it was now timeforme to graduate. It came so quickly, I was at the finish line. I cried all the time in my room. The sinking feeling of being enclosed in one room started to take over me. I needed a new view.
On December 18, 2008, I crossed the finish line; my name was called to receive a B.A. in English-Creative Writing with a minor in African-American Studies with University Honors completing the Sr. Honors Thesis Writing Program. That (C-) came back to my mind as I walked across the stage, I chuckled.
Later, I returned back to the room. It would take a whileformy transition to manifest.
It did, when I least expected it, just like the degree, now hanging on my wall.
By kYmberly Keeton©