Students and Faculty of Saint Mary's College attended "End the Silence" rally on May 3, 2017 (Courtesy of Calvin Monroe)

Students, faculty and staff of Saint Mary’s College attended “End the Silence” rally on May 3, 2017 (Courtesy of Calvin Monroe)

My undergraduate experience was full of faces that looked like mine. Morehouse College, the country’s only all male African American higher educational institution, provided me a place where I could freely speak my mind on social issues and feel heard.  This was because “Good Old Morehouse” had a 150-year tradition from changing boys into men.

At this HBCU, I was allowed to make mistakes, and I did not speak for my entire race in class. In this beautiful institution, classes were often halted because professors knew the value in discussing socio-economic implications of current events being studied. Similarly, candid discussions of race relations in all areas were interrogated through a variety of lenses by professors who were properly trained in diversity and 21st century race relations.

Furthermore, when we left class, we ate together, we studied together and we had heated conversations at three o’clock in the morning in the residence halls about how Ice Cube could still consider himself a “thug”, while simultaneously having several children’s movies out. We took pride in attending this institution. Like the many other HBCU’s in the country, it felt like we were a part of history. More importantly, we felt like we were attending a school like the popular 1990’s clothing line, F.U.B.U. (For Us By Us).

On my five-month employment anniversary at Saint Mary’s College, I fully realized how much of a privilege it was to attend an HBCU. I fully realized that many marginalized students who attend SMC do not have the benefit of seeing faces that look like them. I also realized that due to a lack of ethnic diversity, some of these students instantly became ambassadors for their entire race: making it hard to fully be a student.

On May 3, 2017, I got a taste of my first student led rally, “End the Silence” (ETS). According to The Collegian, ETS is the “student-led movement that originated in the spring of 2016 to reveal and rectify institutional issues that disadvantage students of certain racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and seeks to change the habit of institutional amnesia at this school”  (Mosman, 2017).

On this sunny blue day, I saw a red contrast in the distance. I saw people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds wearing bright red shirts displaying a different kind of pride. It wasn’t the kind that directly celebrated their heritage and success, but one that sought to affirm it to those who do not seem respect it.

I watched brave students from all different ethnicities get on the microphone to remind a crowd of about 60 students, staff and faculty members of their “ten demands” so that SMC could get closer to achieving equality and inclusion. This portion of the rally felt like it was 1966, when The Black Panther Party for Self Defense laid out their 10-Point Platform. Now, over 50 years later, this confirms the fact that marginalized students still must fight to get what other student populations have in abundance.

This rally came on the heels of a hurtful experience felt by Associate Professor of Education, Dr. Raina León in an SMC parking lot. Like her students in this rally, Dr. León did not simply complain, but she displayed activism. This activism led to a literary masterpiece; the subsequent article, “Don’t Let Them Steal Your Joy”, was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The experience that I felt after reading this inspirational article is what motivated me to continue the fight here at SMC.  

The time was now! This was my thought as I saw the microphone open up; I grabbed it before I even knew what I was going to say. What came out of my mouth were expressions of gratitude, love and inspiration from the organizers, students, staff and faculty in attendance. I wanted everyone in attendance to see my face and know, openly, that I would be an advocate for all students on campus.  

To the students who are forced to put their studying aside to express their pain of being called the “N” word. To the student who must worry about the safety and well being for family members who may be undocumented. To the students who experience stereotypes because their original home are islands spread across the globe. Most importantly, to the students who feel like they do not have anyone to turn to and express their experiences on campus, I would like to formally introduce myself.

My name is Calvin Monroe. I am the new Student Engagement and Academic Success Coach, and Coordinator for Black Student Achievement, and I officially became a Gael on May 3, and I am proud to stand and advocate with all SMC students who must endure such hardship.

Let’s do it together!

Calvin Monroe

This article has 1 comment

  1. Laurie Edwards

    Welcome, Calvin – it’s great to have you on campus. There’s still a lot to do here to move toward true equity.

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