The first day of classes are always filled with weird emotions, “What am I getting myself into?” is usually my biggest thought when I register for a class and have no idea what it is about. This class was no different. I had no idea what “Ideas in Antiquity” was besides my last Divisional Requirement. On Tuesday, that would all change. I walked into this class like I do every other class, I choose a seat near the front of the class, but not the center. Most professors write on the board or use a projector both of which usually result in the person who decides to sit in the middle seat of the front row’s loss of vision. So I sat in the second row off to the side. Not the side near the door, because that often times is where late people sit to avoid disrupting the class upon their entrance. I am obviously very strategic with everything I do, but that is besides the point. I chose a seat I think is best for my success, little did I know that was a sign of my internalized leadership.
Tuesday, August 22nd 9:40–11:00am
When Dr. Sandridge finally walked into the class we talked about his Rubix Cube, the meaning of the class and the Five Great Stories in life. We discussed the goals for the class and I ultimately learned that we would be discussing Leadership and how the ideas of Leadership have grown to become. Dr. Sandridge began to write about Life’s Five Great Stories. They were Career, Social Relationships, Leadership, Spiritual/ Intellectual Enlightenment, and Partnership. As we were talking about Social Relationships, Dr. Sandridge called on me to discuss me and my best friend of 10 years relationship. We grew up together, around the corner from each other actually, we are completely opposite when it comes to what we like and how we choose to express ourselves. The biggest thing I drew from my conversation with Dr. Sandridge and the class was me and my best friend really have different spiritual beliefs. She is a strict interpreter of the Bible because she was raised that way, though she has never told me “You’re going to hell.” I have definitely had to sit in an awkward conversation with her and her mom before over my tattoo. We will discuss that later in the Journal though. During our discussion in class, I was trying to relate the 5 great stories to my mother’s life. I am very knowledgeable about her life and saw that this could very well be true. I think of Life’s Five Great Stories as conversation starters. Majority of the time when my mom meets new people the small talk usually always surrounds one of the 5 different topics listed above. I wonder if that is true for most people. I can say it is true for me. Thinking of my engagements with people outside of the Howard community, we almost always connect with one of the 5 topics being our main conversation point. All of these thoughts lead over into the evening when I called my best friend to discuss my first day of class.
Tuesday, August 22nd 6–7:30pm
I called my best friend and though we spoke for a long time, the majority of our conversation revolved around concepts we talked about in this class. I told her we talked about our relationship and the idea of us being different. She asked if I ever felt awkward around her family and I told her no. Her family is extremely Christian and they don’t believe in tattoos and that caused a conflict one Sunday when I went to church with her because she asked me to attend. I wore a dress because I believe it may have been Easter Sunday. My dress showed my shoulders and as I got into her mother’s truck on the way to church she asked me about my tattoo.
Obviously, my best friend told her I had a tattoo previously and she decided now was a good time to bring it up since my shoulders are out. She told me that showing tattoos in the church is disrespectful and like any daughter would, my best friend just let her mother talk without interrupting. I told her that my tattoo was my way of expressing my innermost thoughts on the outside so that I could feel free. This led into another conversation stemming from the point of Intellectual Enlightenment, as I felt like my tattoo was a turning point in my intellectual life. My tattoo, an infinity sign with rope, an anchor and the words “I refuse to sink”, was my declaration that I would only be moving forward no matter how rough life gets. It was a sign of strength in my eyes. Surprisingly enough my best friend didn’t know I valued my tattoo like this, as I was only 13 when my parents allowed me to get one, I had grown with the tattoo and the meaning had expanded to me. I quickly noticed that my tattoo will one day become a part of my Intellectual Enlightenment Story, maybe it will serve as the Introduction.
Wednesday August 23rd 9:30–11:30pm
I was sitting on my bed filling my planner in with a friend, Makiah. As I began to fill my planner in I remembered I had to take a picture for class the next day. I begin to get dressed and brainstorm what “type” of leader I wanted to portray, obviously this is harder than it sounds. I began picking business clothes out of my closet and trying them on and realizing, I didn’t want to be an “average” leader. By average I meant a leader who takes the candid shot on a group of steps looking off onto the sky. I wanted to be a realistic, relatable leader. Makiah saw me rummaging through my closet and asked what I was looking for and proceeded to agree that though, I very well can be the regular leader a more relatable one often times works better. I decided to pull out my favorite red Howard crewneck.
The biggest question for me was, “What do I do with my hair?” I always struggle with this question as often times my go-to hair styles aren’t seen as professional. I recognize that and depending upon my audience I will, against my common ideals, straighten my hair. I even began the process of straightening my hair. I blew the dust off and plugged my flat irons up. Then I thought, “No, I want to be seen as a leader who doesn’t compromise her values for anyone.” But in a way I figured I usually do not have an option, it is either wear a natural style and only be seen by black women, or straighten my hair and be seen by everyone, but by some as one who compromises her self for leadership. Majority of the time, the latter would be the option just because it doesn’t make me seem like such a liberal nor does it offend my Black counter parts, as my natural hair often offends my white counterparts. I finally decided that if I use a scarf to wrap it up nicely I’ll get the look I am looking for and hopefully will come across as one who is willing to sacrifice in order to reach the goal. I finally took the picture and emailed it to Dr. Sandridge so that I can participate in class.
Sadly, I never made it to class: I spent my whole birthday in the Financial Aid Office.
That wasn’t the end for me though, Makiah and I began to talk about why certain leaders are expected to follow a dress code. We cited the time President Barack Obama wore a tan suit, the country was in an uproar. They labeled him unprofessional and unfit for the highest office amongst other things. That conversation quickly ended as we both knew that majority of the backlash he got were from people who didn’t look like him because the black community loved his outfit and we still do.
We spoke about First Lady Michelle Obama and her choice to wear her natural hair after she was out of the spotlight. Her entire time in the White House she chose to wear straight hair and once she was out she was seen with her hair pulled back into a puff and it brought us all immense joy! Though I was happy she could finally be a normal person and wear her hair as it grows out of our head, it made me think about what it really means to be a leader. Not just the act of leading, but the persona you have to portray. You have to put your true self away while you are out “Leading” in order to be seen as effective, or again you will not be seen at all.
Monday August 28th 9–10:00am
I printed out and read the articles assigned for class tomorrow. I started with the Uniprez article and spent the majority of my time on it. It made me think about Howard a lot differently. The school teaches us to be leaders, fact. The school teaches us to be the best in the fields we choose, fact. The school disproportionately chooses students based on parental success, fact. Howard University decides that students who have parents that can make enough money to send them here then they must be able to become leaders, fact. We often overlook the truth that our school actively chooses people who come from better neighborhoods and better parents are essentially, better people. It is not hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that the leaders Howard “produced” were not by chance, but all by choice. Howard’s selective process is understandable but still counterproductive to the ideals the HBCU community as a whole has adapted. The stereotypical Howard student should be thought of as more than a member of the talented ten percent of all Black Students. Howard University should not “screen” students so that they are only allowing students from the upper middle class into our community. Although I see how only accepting students with a track record of excelling is a positive for our school statistics, it is a negative for the Black Community as a whole. We are limiting our school resources to those who have parents who have succeeded or who fit the common idea of a Howard student and frankly it is limiting our growth as students.
Tuesday August 29th 9:40–11:00am
We spoke about the article in class and discussed our questions as leaders or questions we had about leading. I brought up the fact that often times I have to limit my leadership in order to not come across as an angry black woman. I am a supervisor at Target and majority of my peers are white women. Before I got promoted I noticed the looks from them and I wonder if they speak to me the way they do because I am black, or because I am young. Either way, I recognize that there is often some sort of stigma around being assertive. I am often looked at as angry if I ever I raise my voice, reinforce a previous statement, or remind my team of their daily tasks. I know I have to work on finding the balance between being assertive and strong in my words, while still combating the stereotype that any black woman who knows what she wants and will not settle for anything else is angry.