Dear Sister of Any Age:
First of all, you need to know that you matter.
The most meaningful advice I could ever give you in school is to celebrate small victories, advocate for yourself, and embrace the struggles. I share this analogy with my students all the time; one that I’ve heard many times, school is a marathon not a dash.
Celebrate your first test, your first paper of the semester. You deserve it! School is not easy or convenient for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. School, at its best, in my opinion, is to help grow into our best selves. As you we celebrate, we also recognize that we are celebrating moments of growth. So please, even if it is just, having a meal (I’m foodie) or posting a status on social media, do it! Celebrate!
As a black woman, to be perfectly honest, the world is not destined with our advocacy in mind. We know this. I have learned that oftentimes, the people we think will speak for us will not, especially in the classroom. Therefore, you must speak up! I know there is sometimes a very real sense of fear involved; fear of rejection from teachers or classmates, fear of being labeled “The Angry Black Girl or Woman,” or even the fear of our own brilliance. I’m here to tell you that whether you speak up or not, many of those labels will be placed on you anyway! So, share what’s on your mind! Your thoughts are valuable in your learning communities that exist in the classroom and beyond! I would argue that all learning communities are incomplete without the musings of the marginalized. Speak up, all our learning and growth depends on your contribution!
Returning to the marathon analogy, there comes a point in many marathoners’ journeys where they are so close to the finish line and they hit a setback. Perhaps, it is a leg cramp or hunger or just feeling exhausted – yet, many continue. I’m here to tell you just like a marathoner, school will present similar struggles. Embrace the struggles. It in the embrace of the struggle that we learn to brace ourselves, in my long run, for life’s challenges. Sure, you worked very hard on an assignment and didn’t get the grade you wanted. Sure, you had a group experience was less than ideal, and you found yourself doing all the work. It happens to all scholars! And in life, the same happens. Struggles are a part of all journeys especially in school settings. And though, some struggles may slow us down, don’t allow them stop you. Keep running my scholar sister, you got this!
Rev. Tanya Boucicaut is beginning her doctoral studies as a Writing and Rhetoric student at George Mason University this spring. She is a Focused Inquiry adjunct instructor and theological writing and research affiliate faculty member at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She is the founder and CEO a faith-based nonprofit youth theatre, Perfect Love Community Youth Theatre. Her goal is to empower and embrace every person in she encounters to dream and live their best lives fearlessly.