Georgetown is the most ridiculous place in the universe. I feel like I’ve traveled across the world and back, literally and symbolically, during the four years that I’ve spent here. I owe that feeling to a few different factors.
I owe that feeling to the work that I’ve done here, which has pushed me to places I didn’t know existed. Throughout my college career, I’ve worked toward creating a better Georgetown. I have pursued this goal through contributions to the Georgetown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Georgetown Students for Fair Trade, the Diversity Initiative’s Academic Working Group, Urban Fare and Hoya Saxa Weekend. This goal was also manifested in a coalition that I founded with some of my friends – Expressions of a Better Georgetown.
The coalition is a response to local instances of homophobic hate crimes, racism, xenophobia and sexism – most of which were perpetrated by Georgetown students. I’ve built important, genuine and intentionally political alliances with the Black Student Alliance, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Georgetown, GU Pride, the Georgetown University Asian American Student Association, the Caribbean Culture Circle, United Feminists, the Student Commission for Unity and many more student organizations.
The work that is undertaken by student organizations such as these reveals a commitment to social justice, education, community service, progress and coalition-building.
This work is increasingly relevant because Georgetown is often not the “community in diversity” championed by our Ignatian values, but a reflection of wider society. In many ways, this is not a good thing. And it is exacerbated by our lack of economic, racial and sexual diversity. I’ve witnessed intense hate, bigotry and ignorance on this campus. I’ve been called a nigger, as have many of my friends. Friends of mine have been subjected to gay slurs. Chris Simcox – the co-founder of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a civilian border patrol group – was invited to speak here. I’ve been told by professors that, even if we had all three, African American, Asian American and Latino studies programs will never be as intellectually rigorous as the program for Jewish Civilization.
The identities that I hold closest to my heart have made me feel like an outcast in the wider Georgetown community. To be quite honest, I am disheartened by many parts of Georgetown’s identity. The reality of intense privilege that people are not forced to confront scares me. It scares me that many people here will be the world’s next leaders.
In an era where we must keep at bay the capitalist greed that caused an economic meltdown, how can we be optimistic for radical change when Georgetown doesn’t even have programs for ethnic studies, LGBTQ studies, disability studies or an adequately supported program for women’s and gender studies? There is still so much work to be done, and we must not delude ourselves into thinking that we’ve come as far as we should have.
Even more than the work I’ve done, I owe the feeling of having traveled very far to the amazing people I’ve been lucky to get to know. Every time I walk across campus, I am amazed at how many people I shout down for a hug and a kiss. I realize that somehow, even in my position as the angry black woman, I’ve met men and women of all different races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities and even political affiliations that I adore. These people have informed and challenged my perspectives and helped me to grow as a politically and socially aware person.
I also feel like I am part of a family that, no matter how much I stray, always loves me and makes me feel at home. I realize that this may seem like a strange way to describe friends, but I don’t just have friends here. I have family. Some members of my family are people that I’ve known for over four years, whom I met at pre-orientation programs like Hoya Saxa Weekend. We have seen each other grow, overcome hardships, find love and find ourselves. I am so lucky to have spent four years with people I love, care for and respect.
y family also includes people I’ve known for fewer than four years. But somehow, I share some of my strongest friendships with them, and they have challenged me to be the best person I can be and shown me that I should be proud of who I’ve become. Even though I call them my “children,” I feel like they’ve mentored me as much as I’ve mentored them. My love for them is inexpressible.
Georgetown – the good, the bad and the ugly – has made me who I am today. The bad and the ugly have chipped away at my idealism and naïveté. But the good is working to restore my faith. I believe in the potential for those who have struggled, fought, won and lost along with me. These are the people I will continue to fight for and with. This is the Georgetown I love.
Jheanelle Brown is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and the president of GU NAACP, a co-chair of the Hoya Saxa Weekend planning committee and a co-founder of Expressions of a Better Georgetown.
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