To this day I can still remember the conversation I had with my high school counselor, Mrs. Hastings. It was 2017. I was a junior then, and I was skipping lunch because she promised to bring me McDonald’s if I passed my history exam. We often had little table talks where we spoke about things in our lives or about my academics, but on this day, our conversation became one of the most insightful and important conversations that stuck to me like glue.
“Tati, have you ever felt uneasy in a classroom or work setting before?” Mrs. Hastings asked me.
I tried to recall any memories of that feeling. It brought me back to when I was living in New York City. In 8th grade, students were given this big catalog of all the high schools in each borough, from Queens all the way across the Hudson River to Staten Island.
I had my eyes set on attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, but being that this school was a performing arts school, I had to audition to actually attend the school. I’ve been dancing since I came out of my mother’s womb, so I decided to go audition for dance.
The big audition day came, and I was anxious as hell. I had my leotard, my tights and my box braids in a tight bun as required — but I was falling short on ballet slippers because I couldn’t find any in my size at the time.
We took the D train to the 1 and finally arrived at LaGuardia High School. I saw lines and lines of middle school students either holding instrument cases or scripts, and girls with painful-looking hair buns with good postures. I clenched my mom’s arm as I grew more nervous, but I knew not to show that emotion on my face and remind myself that this was what I wanted to do.
After checking in and receiving my number, we went to the dance studio as directed and I saw a bunch of girls and boys who looked like they had more experience than me. But the number one thing that stood out to me was that, out of all of those people in that room, not one looked like me. I immediately looked at my mom and gave her “help me” eyes.
“Stop thinking and just do, you go out on that floor and dance your heart out,” my mom told me as she grabbed my shoulders. “Don’t just show them why you deserve a seat at the table, but show them that you’ve always been at the table before they could even show up.”
To this day, I carry that advice here at Rowan University as a Black, female college student. As a transfer student from a very diverse university, I always felt the odds were stacked against me each time I stepped inside a Rowan University classroom. Even if people stated that “I am always welcome at the table,” I often felt at times that I could not voice my opinion due to not wanting to be placed under the “angry Black girl” category for just wanting to better educate those on a certain topic within the minority community.
Even if I did choose to speak my mind, I would feel like I was standing alone with 3 other Black male students who look like me but chose to ignore the conversation or agree with the opposition to help themselves out professionally instead of standing up for the truth.
I had to remind myself each time I would doubt myself or feel uncomfortable of those strong, historic Black women before me who did not hold their tongues in spaces they were legally not allowed to even be in. Those women made it their mission to speak their minds not only verbally but through their work, their minds and their hearts in order to provide the opportunity for future generations of ambitious, Black women. They were the voice and face of representation who taught others that sometimes being a direct, strong-willed Black woman could open more doors to opportunities than you could ever think of.
As a woman in a male-dominated field such as journalism, I see so many opportunities on campus. For example, at Pizza With The Pros there are mostly male sports communications professionals who will show up to a room filled with male students and only a few cherry-picked female students.
Does Rowan University not realize that there is more than just one field of journalism than just sports? There should be more representation of women journalists in different fields being present during journalism and communications events.
Those events do say that they “cater to female students as well,” but what they really mean by “catering” is that they have one female sports broadcaster throughout a semester-long event show up.
We as female journalism students deserve to have more opportunities for female speakers in various fields of journalism to help those who need that extra boost of confidence and motivation to continue on pursuing the respective fields we choose to go for.
Rowan, respectfully, do better.
For comments/questions about this story, email email@example.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline