Growing up, most of my friends were a product of my environment. I lived in suburban areas and went to schools that were mainly populated with non-POC. In most cases, my family would be the only black family within a 100-mile radius. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. For 19 years, I yearned for at least one friend that looked like me.
So when I chose to come to Tufts, I made sure to be super intentional about this. My initial thought was to choose a Black roommate, but as a first-year, we are not given the option to choose our own roommate. However, I soon learned about the many pre-orientation programs that Tufts offers first-years. Immediately there was one that piqued my interest: SQUAD. SQUAD stands for Students’ Quest for Unity in the African Diaspora. Choosing to participate in SQUAD was the best decision I ever made. My first exposure to Tufts as a Black student was while in the presence of other Black students, and this made my transition all the more exciting. I was able to foster incredible relationships while celebrating and navigating African-diaspora specific challenges. The Africana Center Peer Leaders, who were all upperclassmen, made us first-years feel welcome, loved, and important. They recognized our feelings and made us feel validated. Before Tufts and SQUAD, I didn’t know that it was possible to find a safe space where my subconscious wasn’t reminding me “you are the only Black person here.”
Even though I knew that the Africana Center was a safe space for me, I still experienced feelings of loneliness and incredible sadness as I transitioned to college. I tried to put on a brave face and weather the storm, but there is something about Black people that just sees right through the facade. One sad Saturday evening, I heard a knock on my dorm room door in Hodgdon. Behind this door were four first-years that I met through SQUAD and became very close with. They saw how lonely I was and came to remind me that they were here for me. This random act of kindness has stuck with me ever since. That was the moment I knew that I had friends who acknowledged me for just me, not because I was Black, but in spite of it.
I like to think that at Tufts, I have my own little HBCU. There are times where I go for days without remembering that I go to a predominately white institution. Every chance I have is saturated in the presence of other Black folks. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You know that really cliche saying “college is full of firsts” or something like that? Yeah, it truly is. I made my first group of Black friends here!!