Black at Coastal: Setting an example

Living out ancestor’s wildest dreams graduating from a PWI

Amid studying for final exams, notifying family members of graduation dates, and deciding on what to wear for graduation as well as where to eat afterward, I find myself in shock that after just four years, I will soon be a Black college graduate.

Although I am in shock to be graduating, I am shocked to be one of many who are accomplishing something that was not often seen as a goal for African Americans to achieve, let alone Black students.

For many African Americans before and after the ending of slavery in 1865, the idea of education held the utmost power in accomplishing every dream that has ever been sought after to achieve. Being educated was an ability that stood the test of time to show that African Americans were just as qualified and capable as those who once thought African Americans could never be more.

Establishing a history of education didn’t just mean knowledge. It also meant freedom. This is a freedom I sometimes think of when looking back at those who had come before me and paved the way for me to reach this moment in my life.

I think of Alexander Lucius Twilight, the first known African American to graduate from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1823, and Mary Jane Patterson, the first Black woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in 1862. I can’t help but give my appreciation to these two, along with so many others after them, when looking back at what Black educated excellence looks like.

As graduation closes in, I now recognize this excellence, and I’m met with the many opportunities and achievements my college career provided along with a few other future accomplishments as well.

My college experience gave me a chance at achievements that not only I could dream of having, but other Black students as well. Coastal graduate and English major Taniah Gibbs shared some of her thoughts about being a first-generation Black graduate.

“On one hand, I’m really proud about it, and then on the other it feels like a lot of pressure. But the support is immense, and that’s great,” Gibbs said.

I hope that I and others can continue on this line of accomplishing the impossible and laying the groundwork for those that look like me, for we will all be living the wildest dreams our ancestors could think of.