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To the Girl Who Felt as If She was in Harlem…

It was Black Family Weekend last weekend here at Boston College. The purpose of Black Family Weekend is to encourage high scholastic standards, promote cultural growth, and unity among the Boston College community. The weekend was packed with events from a panel and discussion about Lou Montgomery (BC’s first black football player), poetry, a fashion show, an Alumni vs. Student basketball game, a Black Excellence Gala, a church service, brunch, to Voices of Imani’s Annual Spring Concert. Talk about having a busy weekend, huh?

This weekend was meant to celebrate the black community here at Boston College and was open to students of all races. Friday night, as I was sitting at the fashion show titled “Against All Odds: Defying Stereotypes in the Black Community”. The show focused on relevant issues within the black community including our curly hair, our image, and mass incarceration. The fashion show also included spoken word and performances from dance and step teams here at BC and featured a step team from a school in Dorchester. It was a spectacular event that echoed the voices of the black community at Boston College and to top it all off, those in the fashion show slayed.

I was having a great night until I looked over at the girl sitting next to me just as she typed to her friend on iMessage, “I’m the only white person here”, followed by “it feels as if I am in Harlem”.

That’s when I felt my stomach turn. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know if I should talk to her about what she just wrote. I honestly wasn’t trying to look at her phone because I hate when people do that to me, but it’s hard not to look when the phone’s brightness is turned up all the way in a dark room. So, I just let it go…for the moment. Now, I am upset, not mad. Why did she feel like she was in Harlem? Was it because the room was full of melanin? Was it because she has never seen so many black people united here at BC? I didn’t want to ask, but looking back I should have. My time has passed to talk to her, but I can still write about it today.

I am a native New Yorker. I was raised in the Bronx and I attended a private school from sixth through the twelfth grade. When I graduated from high school, I was one of two black girls in my entire graduating class of about 130 students. When you sent the text, “I’m the only white person here”, which you were not, I can actually say I am the only black person here in the majority of my classes. That’s my everyday life here a BC. I’m not saying I am mad that I am 1 out of an estimated 300 black undergraduate students out of about 9,100 total students here at Boston Collge, but I continue to grow from my experience every day.

When she wrote that she felt as if she was in Harlem, I wasn’t assuming that she meant it in a positive manner. Was it because the rich culture, comprised of music and dance, captivated the room? Or Was it the fact that she was in a room with black people mostly? Harlem is one of the most metamorphosed neighborhoods in NYC. In the past decade, the white population in Harlem has increased fivefold. So, I still don’t get what she meant by that second message, but I also am assuming that she is not aware of the current gentrification of Harlem.

I don’t know if she felt uncomfortable at the fashion show, or if the discussion on black issues made her upset, but I hope for BC to be an inclusive institution one day. BC markets itself as an inclusive institution that is diverse and accepting, but sometimes it fails to do so. I hope that one day, people here at BC can openly talk about race without it being limited to the few AHANA related groups on campus including AHANA Leadership Council, FACES, Black Student Forum, Organization of Latin American Affairs, Asian Caucus, and many more organizations here at BC.






Vanessa is a senior at Boston College studying Economics and Communications. She is proud to be the Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at Boston College!