Speak with Your Chest


Winter at Purdue University

I don’t have a lot of time to write this.

Yes, I’ve submitted my thesis (also known as a Scholarly Paper) and I’ve ticked off almost all of the administrative things required for me to graduate. For a minute, I had thought that this part of the semester would be less stressful than the rest of it has been.

But writing a giant paper is only one part of what grad school is.

I’ve got quizzes to grade and to make, homework for 3 classes, helping run the Black Student Association, and jobs to apply to. I’ve got to feed myself and plan for a move across an ocean and continent. And there’s always money to worry about.

I fought so hard to get to this point that it’s a bit weird to be here.

In March, I traveled to the middle of Indiana to do the first presentation on my research. It was nerve-wracking from the minute I left Honolulu to the minute I got back. Between the logistics of getting there and back, to figuring out what I was going to say and who was going to hear it, there was a lot to balance. On top of all that, I was alone.

A friend recently asked me if I thought it was impossible to connect one’s research to their community, particularly for marginalized students. The truth is that it is extremely difficult. Despite all the “good intentions” of those within the academy, the institution is built to exclude. Socially, politically, and financially, the academy skews for the powerful. Its ideology resists the kind of knowledge that challenges its roots and seeks to revolutionize research and education.

Graduate students are already an isolated population as a whole. For those of us wanting to work for our communities, that isolation is even more acute. So, trekking to Indiana on my own dime not knowing what I was getting into was par for the course. I had long learned to stand and speak on my own.

But isolation does not condemn anyone to silence. It only means you have to shout louder, and say with your chest.

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