Why I Kneel


I spent yesterday kneeling outside in the 90-degree heat with over 100 other students in solidarity with the black community at Michigan and a specific Masters of Public Health student, Dana Greene Jr, who decided to kneel outside, facing the flag, until there was real promise for change.

Dana went outside to the middle of the Diag at 6am this morning with the intention of kneeling for as long as he could possibly stand to. He said in his letter to the President of our University, Mark Schlissel, “I will kneel in the Diag facing the flag in silent protest until there is nothing left in me.” This letter details the reasons he kneels and his feelings on the discrimination and marginalization that black people feel in our country. He says it better than I ever could:

“I am kneeling because we should be better than this. I am kneeling because I am tired of doing nothing. I am kneeling because I want this campus and this country to acknowledge a fact that I know to be true. We are not and have never lived by the idea of our founding that ALL men are created equal. I am kneeling because we our better than this.”

Today I knelt alongside him. I was out there for a mere 5 hours of the 16+ hours (he is still out there as I type this 16.5 hours after he started) he was standing up for the right for equality. I was blown away by several of the things I experienced today.

I went outside around 2:30/3pm. It was hot and the sun was beating down on everyone. Within about 5 minutes of kneeling, I was dripping in sweat. I was in a group of 20-30 members of my cohort from the School of Social Work. Almost instantly, organizers were around me passing out water, snacks, & cold paper towels. A few hours later, there were several rounds of pizza brought for the protestors. (By rounds I mean at least 8 boxes from 3 different pizza places!) People going in between classes were bringing packs of water bottles and bags of ice to hand out. The outpouring of support and love for Dana and the rest of us was so inspiring.

My evening class was moved outside. As students studying social work, in a class that is focused on diversity and social justice, none of felt it was right to sit in the classroom when we should be standing up for our field’s values just outside.

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Another moment came for me when around 7:30/8:00, the sun was setting and the Muslim students protesting with us gathered in a group for prayer. The entire Diag – normally a place of laughter, conversation and noise – fell completely silent for the next 15 minutes while they prayed. Tears were in my eyes, completely moved by the solidarity I felt in that moment among my fellow students.

IMG_3520I finally packed up my things and left around 9:30pm. Dana and more than 200 Michigan students, faculty and Ann Arbor community members were still out there kneeling, strong as ever. I left that Diag swelling with pride for the community that I am apart of here. I am proud of the amazing School of Social Work that I attend where my professors allow us to exercise our voices and use what we learn in the classroom in our community.

To Dana and the organizers, thank you for your bravery, your strength and your perseverance. Thank you for those who donated resources for all those kneeling. Thank you for those who were willing to have honest dialogue with us instead of yelling your disapproval and insults at us. Thank you to every student who was out there today. A lot of you were out there longer than me, and I admire you so, so much. We will continue fighting. We will stand up for what is right and what is deserved.

 

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Looking back on the year


And with that last Canvas submission I have completed my junior year of my undergraduate career. Recently I have been really, really scared. “The real world” is right around the corner, and I have very little confidence in the direction my life is headed. But on top of being scared, I have also been thinking a lot about how amazing this past year has been. A lot of things happened. Some were good, some bad – some amazing.

If you’ve ever read my blog posts or seen my Facebook or talked to me for more than like 20 seconds, I have most likely talked about Camp Kesem in some way or another. Have I tried to get you to donate? Probably. I am rounding out my second year as a Development Coordinator for Camp Kesem at UofM this summer, and it has been a wild and rewarding ride. As of last weekend, we have raised over $100,000 for camp this summer. That is almost all of our 210 campers, and it’s only April.

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I’ve met truly met my people through this organization. Like classic Grey’s Anatomy “my person” type of person, except there’s several of them and I cannot be more thankful that I have these incredible humans to travel the rest of my crazy life journey with by my side.

We’ve had our up’s and down’s this year. There were so many successes that came along with their fair share of failures. There were tears. There was laughter. There was love and loss – but I wouldn’t choose anyone else to go through all of this with. I know for sure that no matter where I end up after graduation next May, I will always look back on this incredible group of people as my people and the most inspiring and loving human beings. Thank you for teaching me what I am worth. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love.

I really began to find my passions this year. I served as a group leader for a course called Project Outreach in the Psychology department where I spent my second semester in a row going to Monroe County Youth Center every week to lead art workshops for the juveniles in detention there. From this course, I received an internship with the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court and spent this past semester helping to start a creative arts workshop for the juveniles on probation in this county as well as working alongside probation officers in the sexual offender treatment program at the court. I can really see myself doing this kind of work for the rest of my life, and that is the most confident I have ever felt in anything about my career probably ever.

In addition to all of this, I have traveled to some pretty amazing places this year. I spent a month traveling around Europe with two of my best friends. We visited 9 different countries in less than 29 days, and it was absolutely incredible. We had a bonfire in a valley town in the Swiss Alps. We swam in the Italian Riviera in the most picturesque coastline towns in Italy. We picnicked with wine and baguette sandwiches under the lights of the Eiffel Tower. We casually saw the Queen and the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We learned how to make sangria and Paella in Barcelona. It was the most amazing month, and I still talk about it almost every day.

I spent a pretty awesome week on a cruise with my family and my grandparents in the Caribbean. We zip lined over a water park in Costa Maya. We swam with dolphins in Cozumel. My dad, sister and I spent a way too long day shopping in Belize City. I practiced my Spanish to perfection after snorkeling all day in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef (the largest Barrier Reef system in the world)!

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I took a cross-country road trip with my best friend and showed her everything from my home state. We ate so much food our stomachs were in so much pain. We drank hurricanes on Bourbon Street and Cajun danced our hearts away.

I could go on and on about the incredible things I’ve done this year, but most importantly, I have made new friends and traveled the world and learned to cope with loss and grow from it. I have learned so much about my abilities, my passions and myself as a person. I look forward to my summer – an internship at a really awesome Detroit-based organization and traveling the state with my friends. Cheers to another year of learning and loving and exploring!

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On Beautifying my Heart


•ŸWherever you go, may people always recognize you have a beautiful heartŸ•

The other night I was at my friend’s house spending some nice, quiet quality time away from the hustle and bustle of finals and planning meetings and the constant moving that our lives have become. We were discussing our plans. She is graduating in a few weeks. I am moving into my final year of my undergraduate degree. Those constant questions of “so what are you going to do?” are coming from every direction. As an actual perpetrator of the situation, I asked her that exact question. And her answer started a conversation that made me so comfortable with my own answer – “I don’t really know.” I don’t really know and that’s okay.

We spoke of the world of opportunities sitting in front of us. And how we are not required to take one or the other. Referencing the quote above, I realize that I want to have a beautiful heart no matter what I do. This friend probably has one of the most beautiful hearts I know, and that is what I want. Whether I am in grad school, traveling the world, moving across the country or across the world – I want people to see my heart.

Yeah, I’m proficient in Microsoft Word and I can list all the jobs and responsibilities I’ve had, but what I want my coworkers, my friends, my clients, my dentist, and, hopefully, my children to see is my heart – that I love so deeply and so passionately. I want them to see that I am focused on loving and on the betterment of myself while bettering the lives of others. That is why I chose Social Work, after all. I can sincerely be the change that I want to see in the world by treating every person I come in contact with with respect, love and support.

There’s no need to plan out every detail of my future. A “Five Year Plan” is great in theory, but it will lead to disappointment or stress (or both). Yeah, I may end up in grad school after I graduate. I may take a year off. I may take a year in grad school. I may take two or more. I will do what I feel is best for me at the time, but through all of it, I will continue beautifying my heart – free it of stress and pain. Free it of the anger and burdens of the past. Because as my favorite singer, Taylor Swift, said, “And I now believe that walking through a lot of rainstorms gets you clean.”

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Special shout-out to KitKat: I love you and our conversations, whether on your couch or under the stars in Fenton. You are forever beautiful and I am so blessed to call you a friend. ♥

 

On Learning and Reflecting


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Learning what I find important in life has been a difficult journey, and it’s nowhere near over. I am constantly thinking about what I could be doing better, or what I am searching for, and it’s not easy to comprise a list of these things. What I will try to do is tell you what I have learned and what I am in the process of learning.

I have learned that even though I am living away from home, and that I’m probably one of the most independent people I know, I will always miss my family and my dog. Sometimes just the idea of being at home on the couch watching football with my family and a table full of Buffalo Wild Wings in front of me brings me to tears.

I have learned that I’m privileged and lucky. I have a family to miss and a second (and third and fourth) family to love me and care for me wherever I am in the world. I have never wanted for anything that I need to survive.

I have learned that I am a strong person, but I’m not strong enough to handle everything on my own. Sometimes I need help, and that’s okay.

I have learned that I give a lot, and that’s not always a good thing. Sometimes I need to take a step back and say no. A friend and I were talking recently about how we always say yes to things and we think that this will make us happy and productive, but in the end, it makes us stressed and unproductive. It’s okay to say no to things, even if those things might be stuff you don’t think you want to miss out on – there will be other opportunities to hang out with those friends.

I have not yet learned what it is I want to “do with my life.” Despite, constantly getting the question day in and day out, just because I am a junior in college, I do not have my future nailed down, and yes, you asking me that does make me feel a little nervous. I am contemplating a lot of things, and I know that I am the kind of person who will not really know what I want to do until I start doing it.

I have not yet learned quite how to love. Loving is sometimes so easy and sometimes it’s so much harder. I’ve not figured it all out yet, but I’m working on it.

I will always consider myself a learner long after I’m out of school. I will always continue learning new things and I don’t know if I’ll ever really “figure everything out,” but I like to think that I can keep working on it.

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Farewell to 2014: Reflections and Memories


It’s approaching that time again – 2014 is coming to a close and 2015 is right around the corner. I’ve never been one to make a big deal over New Year’s. I never really enjoyed going to the parties or counting down until midnight. Despite this, I have always been one for reflection. I enjoy looking back on how I changed, improved, struggled, grew and whatnot over the year. 2014 has been crazy.

[Note: This is sort of like a scrapbook, so there are lots of photos along with the reflections. 🙂 Hope you enjoy them]

I cannot believe that I’ve been in college for a year and a half now. Sometimes it still feels like I’m just on a really long vacation or in a dream and I’ll wake up and be back in Louisiana in high school. Then I pinch myself and realize that it’s real.

This past year I took classes that I loved, and helped me to find my passion. I went to the Quidditch World Cup in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my team, where me made it to the bracket of sixteen! 

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I worked an incredible internship with an amazing team of bilingual therapists in North Carolina. I went to a private event at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley expansion in Orlando and was able to achieve my every childhood dream of riding the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts with my best friends.

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I traveled to San Francisco, and spent an incredible week there with my family. I absolutely fell in love with the city.

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I spent my first year as a counselor at Camp Kesem and met the most amazing college students and kids I have ever met in my life. Since camp, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve on the Coordinator Board with some unbelievable people. 

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I moved into a house with people I now consider my second family. This family has helped me so much during this extremely difficult semester.

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I saw a ton of my favorite bands in concert (The Fray and 1D for life!)

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I went to an event in New Jersey where I met some of the most inspiring creators on the Internet, engaging in activities with them and the community.

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I started working a job that I am actually really enjoying. I have never felt so involved with a cohesive team of co-workers as I do here. I helped my chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance to give away over 20,000 books for free to people in the Detroit community.

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That’s only a few of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to experience this year. Despite all of these incredible things, it has been a pretty difficult year as well. My mother was still fighting breast cancer, going through treatments all spring and summer. My classes were a lot harder this semester than they were my freshman year. I was incredibly busy juggling school, work, the three organizations I’m involved in, and trying to fit eating and actually socializing in between all of that. The stress sometimes brought out the worst in me, and I don’t like that. Through this, I learned ways to help my anxious mind, and to channel my sadness into activities on my bad days. This year taught me a lot about myself, my passions and goals, my strengths and weaknesses, and my worth.

I can’t wait to have all of 2015 for even more learning experiences, discoveries, journeys and adventures. I bid you farewell 2014, but you will now only live in Instagram photos, tweets and memories.