W A R D U N I
V E R S I T Y|
Faces & Voices IV
AN ANTHOLOGY OF VERSE AND PROSE
I had dreamed of it as long as I can remember. I suppose the idea was first put into my head by Grandma when I was just a kid, hanging on to her skirts, following her around and asking millions of questions, then more questions about her answers. She'd say I had a nose for knowledge and would one day follow that nose right into a University. Inevitably, I asked what was a University and Grandma would smile her enigmatic smile and say "you'll find out."
Well, here I am, looking out the second-floor window of my dormitory at the passing scene and wondering if this is what Grandma had in mind.
The weather outside is divine, cloudless, blue sky, spring-like warmth and gentle breeze made visible by the pacific swaying of tall grass and swirling of autumnal leaves, yet the benches are empty and the natural surroundings, untouched by my visions of assiduous students engaged in intense conversation or hunched over thick volumes of philosophy or fiction, or writing voraciously into tattered journals. I see the occasional passerby who is invariably in a hurry, not stopping or lingering to enjoy the atypical November weather, but rather rushing into an automobile and hampering nature’s music with the thumping and bumping of contemporary “music” riddled with unnecessary bass. The scene is generally barren in all senses of the term, sinking my heart a bit. The more I examine and ponder things, the more I come to the realization that Grandma did not deliver her “you’ll find outs” with the intention of my experiencing university life as I have thus far.
My conceptions of college life took shape soon after Grandma passed away. In the absence of her prodding and encouragement, I was forced to pave the path that my nose would follow, the path that Grandma spoke so confidently about, on my own. My sources not only included various media (particularly television and the movies), but also second-hand stories from equally anxious companions and the occasional recounting of “when I was that age...” tales from my parents, to whom my desire to break free from the conventional educational setting would become increasingly apparent. As I approached my high school years, I had already taken a liking to perusing the pages of Barron’s Two- and Four-Year Colleges and Universities, and looked forward to each year’s publication of U.S. News and World Reports’ “The Best Colleges.” Grandma’s goading had interested me to the point of an obsession so intense that I longed to abandon the conventional secondary school setting for that of a college or university at all costs (including inadequate performance in my studies, paradoxical though it may seem). It was this obsession that led me to explore the option of attending Simon’s Rock College of Bard, an extremely small, private liberal arts institution catering to “young scholars,” an institution at which like-minded fifteen and sixteen year-olds abandoned concern for “quantitative externals” like GPAs, standardized test scores and such, and embarked on a journey of learning for the sake of learning. Perhaps unfortunately for me, however, the world of Simon’s Rock never became my own, but images of its engaged students and serene environs left indelible stains on my consciousness, fixing into my mind a perfect representation of that which I was sure would comprise my own college experience.
While I was fully aware of what I was “getting into” when (under the influence of a generous scholarship offering) I accepted Howard’s offer of admission, I didn’t expect my peers to be as unaware, unconcerned and superficially ambitious as they are. So few of them read regularly or keep abreast of current events, yet so many of them are intent on pursuing corporate-level jobs that will allow them to hoard X number of dollars, which will in turn allow them to live in Y city, drive Z car, and wear clothes with such-and-such a label on them. As opposed to healthful exchanges with those with whom I reside, I am instead the subject of skeptical scrutiny: my neighbors constantly wonder about the world map that adorns my wall, the books that rest atop my desk, and the sheet music scattered about my bed. They have a good giggle with my roommate when they overhear the sounds of Ellington or the New York Philharmonic or a cast recording pouring out of my stereo speakers, or when I practice Japanese reading assignments aloud. My weekends consist of museum-hopping and city exploration—solo. While they are well aware of where the hottest clubs and malls are hiding, my floormates are not aware that an entire world, a ridiculously vast, unlimited, open world awaits them outside the realm of “HU.”
Just after the passing of Grandma, I liked to let my imagination soar, let it really run free. I pictured my parents and I arriving on a campus abounding with trees and excited students: able bodies running about the lawn tossing Frisbees, thoughtful ones penning the next New York Times best seller or canon component in the shade of the weeping willows, artsy ones singing, strumming guitars, or learning from the greats via personal cassette or compact disc players, and activist ones manning petition tables and dedicatedly disseminating literature to each and every passerby. I envisioned sweatshirt clad intellectuals whose intensity and concern would penetrate every aspect of their physical beings so deeply that they would be beaming with it, but would have been able to maintain a sense of humanity so as to never be able to resist a hearty laugh. I pictured myself frustrated with the wording of a professor’s assignment, only to be made to understand by a helpful roommate or neighbor. I pictured intense meal-time debates about “the issues,” good, clean, board game fun, late night philosophizing, and learning from the experiences of my peers and sharing my own. Do not misunderstand me, for I was not solely in search of people with whom I had lots in common, but merely people that would share my enthusiasm and curiosity for life and for learning.
I peer outside of my window now and wonder about the whereabouts of the Howard of which I had heard; the Howard at which engaged students sought to change the world not for the betterment of themselves, but for the betterment of their people. I peer outside of my window now to find essential nothingness: I see flashy automobiles and flashy individuals clothed in flashy garments. A girl sits atop the low wall surrounding the dormitory and is “honked at” or approached by passing men at least six or seven times. A group of five young men saunters up the sidewalk lazily, limping almost. They chant some phrase loudly yet incomprehensibly. I peer outside of my window and see athletes here and there, some carrying their gear, others jogging; eerily, they remind me of the night that I peered out of this same window and witnessed the nonchalance of the campus police, who stood aside as four young men went at each other in the middle of the busy road. I peer outside my window and am saddened.
no mistake, I fully recognize and am truly grateful for each and every one of
the positive aspects that Howard has offered me (this Composition class is a
prime example). On the whole, however, I realize that the Howard with which I
was made familiar prior to my matriculation is a Howard that may no longer
exist, and that my “being here” may not last much longer.
2000 Howard University.