EDITOR’S NOTE: Diary of a Black Girl is a special column focusing on the experiences of Black women at the University of Mississippi. In this installment, opinion writer Bre’Anna Coleman interviews freshman English major Madison Washington.
I was always the only Black girl — or even person — in my high school classes. Despite this seeming similar to the University of Mississippi’s campus, it was quite different at home.
My neighborhood was diverse, and I had plenty of minority friends outside of class. It surprised me to learn that my old school had a 70% Black student body.
I think of this frequently as I navigate the university campus and the variety of spaces for minority students.
The first thing I did when I got here was explore the dorm room doors in my hall. When a name looked ethnic, I knocked and introduced myself.
This is how I began the creation of my small community of friends on campus.
I am here because of my mother’s drive and my father’s perseverance. I watched my mom wake up early in the morning to run her daycare. Toddlers scream and yell before slowly settling down, only to have another energetic outburst soon after.
These kids aimlessly and gleefully wander and play. They can’t tell a hot stove from a cold one — they couldn’t even tell you what the stove was. They walk first, hurt second, think last.
I’m learning toddlers aren’t the only ones with this approach to life. As a young adult, I know that we try things, and then decide whether or not they are right for us.
When I learned to drive, my mother made me loop around a hospital because if I hit anybody, we would already have help three steps away.
The time came for me to learn to drive on a campus, so she took me to a park and playground. You can’t quite simulate the attention needed to drive by a playground where a ball or child are equally liable to end up in the street.
Because of my parents, I know how to carry myself. It’s hard to rattle me, I’ve seen and heard worse. In a disagreement, I keep it fact-oriented and objective.
Because of my parents, their attitudes, their dedication and their behaviors, I stand here today.
I stand as a person dedicated to making sure everyone is shown kindness and treated equally. This path led me to the University of Mississippi.
If I had landed at my dream school of UCLA, I don’t know how I’d survive when the time came to move off campus. Los Angeles rent prices? At 19 or 20? As a full time student? Never heard a tale more daunting.
Still, I can see myself as a Bruin when it comes time to pick a law school. My loving, slightly controlling, older brother grinds his teeth at the thought of me making my own decisions as the youngest of four siblings. Once again, I must step first and think later much like the curious toddler in order to learn.
Besides, if I can make it in Mississippi, I can make it anywhere. Sometimes, I grow anxious at the thought of being far away. Those feelings dissipate when I remind myself how much of the world I’ve yet to see.
Bre’Anna Coleman is a junior political science major from Drew, Miss.