Growing up in my school environment, I did not have many examples of black representations/professionals to look up to nor did I fit into the White, Christian, Upper-class majority population of my school. In short, it was difficult not to be aware of my surroundings and have things magnified of how I dressed, wore my hair, spoke, carried myself, and thought about my values compared to my classmates when I was 1 out of the 3 or only black student in my classes or be 1 out of 3 black cheerleaders on a team of 24 teammates and even at one point the only black cheerleader on my team. This relates to what we discussed in class about how different races develop their identity development. In class it was stated, “To find one’s racial or ethnic identity, one must deal with negative stereotypes, resist internalizing negative self perceptions and affirm the meaning of ethnicity for oneself (Tatum)”. Though I was involved in High School, I always felt I had to perform and act to a double standard to make sure I didn’t fall victim to upholding stereotypes associated with my race. I didn’t have much of a voice at this time either to stand up for myself if I heard something that was racist or did not realize that it was an appropriate reaction to feel uncomfortable or confused when I was being microaggressed, which was a term I didn’t learn until I got to VCU.
Fast forward into my college years, the picture was taken in the spring of 2017 from my New Member Presentation, a public display of coming out to the community and the rest of the Greek community, with my line (class) of sisters as we crossed (were inducted) into our organization of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. I’m not hard to find in the photo either, because I was the smallest one out of my sisters, I was the first one in line as the Ace (The leader) of our show. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. is a historically black sorority that is under the National Pan-Hellenic Council or as other black greeks will reference the Divine 9 because there are a total of five fraternities and four sororities that make up the council. My sorority was founded in the year 1920 on the campus of Howard University located in Washington, D.C. This organization was initiated by five Howard women who at the time wanted to create a sorority different than the others that withheld high standards towards education, promote service in their surrounding community and college campus, uphold a bond of sisterhood, and serve as role models displaying Finer Womanhood.
Even though I did not chose to go to an HBCU (Historically Black College University) I still wanted to be connected to my roots in someway that I had missed out on growing up in the school setting I did and be apart of something greater than myself. The principles of Scholarship, Service, Sisterhood, and Finer Womanhood were all characteristics of what I saw in myself and had all along, and now I can say I carry within me a legacy of innovation, resilience, and black excellence. I couldn’t predict as a sophomore in High School I would join an organization my sophomore year of college where I feel comfortable and have gained a bond with individuals that have the same passions as me and most importantly look like me!
This transformation I went through relates to the stages of pre-encounter, encounter, immersion/emersion, and later internalization through the development of the black identity because I went from a space of recognizing that I was not like the others around me and wanting to find my belonging to joining a sorority that embraced and valued my cultural heritage. I can also say that going to a diverse campus such as VCU has helped me feel comfortable and learn from different ethnicities while not losing my core black identity.