25 Days of Memories, Day 15

Take One

Adjust for skin tones

(Well, someone’s got to take a hit here…)

I keep promising to tell more stories in another post, but then I never do, or at least, I haven’t yet.  Until now.  Yesterday’s post was about meeting Christina and becoming secretary of the African American Student Association (AASA).  Today’s post covers the funny things that happened during my time as secretary.

In one of the first meetings I had with the executive board, one of the members went over some news about the Voting Rights Act of 1965  coming up on expiration, and how the Act was not being renewed.  One of the young ladies, the treasurer I believe, chimed in “oh, uh, uh, I am not going back to slavery.”  See with the Act expiring, they thought that as black citizens that meant they wouldn’t be able to vote anymore.  I was appalled when I heard this.  Obviously we all needed to go back to American history and study up on the reconstitution amendments to the Constitution, particularly the 15th amendment.

When I was telling someone how outrageous it was that this Act was expiring, she promptly questioned my source.  She brought up the amendments of the constitution, and suddenly all the information I learned in AP American History came flooding back in.  “Oh, yeah…that.”

I did my own research on exactly what the Voting Rights Act covered, and realized what it was all about and reported my findings at the next executive board meeting.  They all blankly stared at me as if they didn’t trust me, and they moved on to the next order of business.  That was the moment I realized I had to earn their trust.  And it wasn’t going to be easy.

But I did eventually earn their trust, and I’m glad I did! It was just in time for our first conference.  All of the leadership of the AASA throughout Florida were meeting in September for a conference.  Talk about anxiety.  It was some comfort knowing Christina would be going, until I found out that she wasn’t.  So not only was I going to an all black conference, but I was going to it without the girl that got me into this whole mess.  On top of this anxiety, I had to raise money to go!

The club did bake sales and car washes, and we scraped together our earnings and headed to St. Pete for the conference.  We were in the minivan in the parking lot of the hotel still counting money and opening our wallets to pay the difference of what we needed.  It was the craziest thing ever.  I’ve been to many conferences before with The Salvation Army, and I have never had to worry about money like this.

We ended up having enough money to go, and so we checked into the room and got ready for the opening session.

The conference was out of control, and with all of the odds against me, I went forward with the confidence of one who cannot hide.  It’s not like I could just get by and hope people didn’t notice me…I was the only white person there out of 100 kids on AASA leadership throughout Florida.  So I did things I wouldn’t normally do: Like go out for a talent show that I hadn’t prepared for.  Me and another girl from school got up on stage and sang some good ole praise and worship songs.  I was so nervous! I can’t believe I did that!!!

One of the nights, they had a comedian from BET.  He got up on stage and began, “I see we got the one white girl in the house.  Heeeeeyyy Becky!” Uproars of laughter.  Of course, I told you I learned from an early age that I needed to have tougher skin if I was going to be so embarrassing.  I just laughed it off, and he moved on to someone else in the audience.  The only negative thing that came from that was that everyone not from my school called me Becky for the rest of the weekend.  I finally got so fed up with it, that I turned once at that name and said, “My name is not Becky.  If you want to address me, I suggest you figure out my real name.” That earned me some respect real fast!

All in all, the conference was a good experience.  There were only a few girls who would snicker whenever I spoke up in group settings.  They would whisper about me, but I didn’t care.  I realized I had to earn their respect just like I had to earn the respect of the rest of my school’s leadership team.  It would come in time.  I couldn’t worry about them.  And I’m glad I got over it, because I did learn a lot from the conference, like what it means to be a minority.  You can never know what it feels like for a person of color in most situations if you don’t first experience what it feels like to be a minority.

I also learned one or two things about black culture that hadn’t really occurred to me before.  Conspiracy theories run deep.  And now, no matter what, I don’t believe anything completely that people tell me.  This has served me well in some occasions, and helps me not to be the gullible girl that most perceive me as.  And anyway, I’m not gullible, just naïve.  For instance, I have been convinced by one black friend in particular that Beyoncé was never pregnant with Blue IV.

The conference experience toughened my skin even more and prepared me for the Spring conference that included members of FAASA (Florida African American Student Association) as well as leaders…so it was a larger conference.

I went being one of two white people at the entire conference, though I was decidedly the only culturally white person there.  This time, my friend from Church was also there, so it was good to have his back up.  He and I sang in the choir that weekend and had a good time.  At that particular conference, I was introduced to the art form of Spoken Word and have been in awe of spoken word artists ever since.

There were some instances in the club when I experienced reverse slavery.  One such memory was of Black History Month in February.  AASA was responsible for doing a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the good works of Black people in our nation.  Me and one other girl were the rockstars of the presentation, working late many nights to gather research and put it all together.  I was very bitter about the situation, though looking back I’m not sure why.  Sure I did most of the work, but I wasn’t going to attach my name to a sub-par presentation.  That’s just not who I am.

At any rate, our club sponsor Mr. Morgan came up to me privately and recognized me for the work.  I didn’t tell him that I did it all, and I didn’t expect any thanks, but it was still nice to know that someone recognized the work I had done.  That was enough for me.  And it taught me something: Worry about you.  You can’t worry about who gets the recognition.  People notice the work you do without you having to advertise it for the world to see.  Braggers are tacky, anyway.

My experience with the African American Student Association was busy and tiring, but it was amazing.  I made so many friends and connections from being in the club, and it really helped me to come into my own during my college experience.  I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in the world.  And I truly mean that.  That year helped shape me and prepare me for the stage of life that I am at now.  I’ll always be grateful to Christina for introducing me to a club that continues to help shape me to this day.  I’m so glad that it will always be a part of my story.

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