After four long years, I can say that I am glad that I came to Bowdoin. I was able to learn about something I never would have been able to learn anywhere else: the way white people live. I can say with certainty that I hope to never be in a space like this again, so I bid farewell to Brunswick, Maine. I want to leave something behind for the Black students on this campus that are often forgotten, spoken over and disenfranchised.
You are so strong and capable, and your experience is your knowledge; there are so many things you will realize that you knew already but never had the language to describe, or rather you didn’t know the language your oppressors use to describe what they aren’t even convinced is your experience. Even when you share story after story of your pain, your family’s pain, our collective pain, and they still don’t believe you, remember the Black people who will support you and guide you and comfort you. Though we may not always be together, there is something within you that knows you are loved.
You deserve better, and you must fight as if you know you deserve it as well. When you know you need help, be it financial, academic or with finding good coping habits, ask for it. Demand it. We are not here just to enrich the education of white students, giving them free lectures and things to consider in the privacy of their locker rooms—we are humans who are deserving of respect, and you must take it for yourself. You cannot wait for this system to work because this place was not made for us.
I saw a good quote the other day that spoke about not treating the people in your community how you would treat your oppressor. It made me think about how easy it is to jump on people who may genuinely come from a good place but haven’t had anyone reach out to them and ask why they said what they said. Now, I personally wouldn’t do this for anyone but another Black person, and I feel it’s especially important to call in from within the community. There’s no point in airing out our business for entertainment and spectacle when there are so many things white people have done that don’t even get discussed. I believe that in some cases, grace must be extended, because we know how often it wasn’t offered to us when we needed it the most.
I don’t know if I can ever find the words to express how I felt when I studied abroad in Ghana and had a chance to not only remove myself completely from Bowdoin but from the United States. Having that experience made something click for me that I don’t think can happen unless you get that time away. Bowdoin keeps us too busy and overworked to talk about the issues we really want to talk about with the people we want to talk about them with, so even they are aware of the power of communication. I hope that you all use your time as you see fit and organize to bring about the change you deserve.
We all know that nothing comes easy; I feel as though this is especially true when it has come to the fight for liberation. Growing up, it was common to hear certain babies being described as “old souls.” As if they had been here before and were already fed up with the fact that things haven’t really changed all that much. And while I recognize that it may feel like you are just one person, your voice has power. Once you find it, hold onto it tight, because there are people who are afraid to see what happens when your voice is listened to.
I know that as a people, we have different ideals and aspirations, but we can’t forget what our larger goal is. Every liberation movement has utilized different strategies, and that nuance in thought is important, but we are at a point in time where this may truly be our last chance to get things right. The earth is dying, and oppressed peoples are rising up against U.S. imperialism and militarized police forces globally. So, to all of my beautiful Black people: don’t forget who your ancestors are and how far their knowledge and presence has gotten us. My heart is full from knowing that you are here, and I will make sure they hear you when you speak. Love, Saf.