Being a Black Woman at AU: "This Week Hasn't Been Easy"

BY: LAUREN LUMPKIN 

Since last Friday when we were shocked with the news that black bodies were under attack on our campus, we’ve taken a series of blows that have left many us emotionally, physically and spiritually raw. We rallied at protests, chanting “Black Women Matter.” We attended town halls – some of us even skipping class in hopes of making a difference. We’ve argued with professors and peers, daring to assert that our lives matter on this campus.

This week hasn’t been easy.

Here at AU, and at most predominately white institutions across the country, black students must wear two hats. We must be students. We must attend classes and take notes during lectures. We have to stay up late studying and rush to meetings the next morning. We have to catch trains to internships and plan our futures just like everyone else. And crying all night because you have no more words to express your frustration, or because you’re mourning the loss of yet another unarmed black man murdered by the police (at least three just this week) doesn’t warrant an excused absence.

But we must also be educators. In a classroom where you’re lucky to find two other black faces, we’re forced to speak on behalf of 46.3 million other black people across the country. We have to correct our white peers when they refer to Columbia Heights as “sketchy” or stand in defense of the University’s response to race-related incidents that leave students feeling hurt and unprotected. We have to explain time and time again why a banana isn’t just a banana. We have to constantly validate our anger – and it’s exhausting.

Blow after blow, this week hasn’t been easy.

This Saturday I woke up at 6 a.m. After a long week, I really wanted to sleep in, but I knew I needed to be somewhere else. I joined thousands of people from across the DMV and even the country to welcome the the new National Museum of African-American of History & Culture (NMAAHC). I listened to the Howard University marching band beat drums and blast horns, as well as Patti LaBelle wail Etta James’ “At Last.” I listened to speakers, including Founding Director of the NMAAHC Lonnie Bunch and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who has been fighting for civil rights since he was a teenager. I heard President Barack Obama proclaim that “we are not a stain on America. We are America.”

This week hasn’t been easy. But this ceremony reminded me that this journey isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be hard and grueling – a test of character. It’s designed to bring us together and make us stronger instead of weaker. I stood next to an older woman, who clutched her chest as she said “I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see this day.”

In 1951, Langston Hughes asked us, “what happens to a dream deferred?” Today, I urge us to answer.

Photo provided by the author.

Jenna CaldwellComment