Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

From L.A. to Maine: From Tupac to Jewel

When I chose to go to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, I knew I was making the right decision. I was excited about the school because of its small population and high academic standards. On the other hand, I almost rejected Colby's invitation because of the lack of diversity on campus.

I went to Crenshaw High - which is all black, with some Hispanic kids - in the heart of Los Angeles. Along with leaving that behind, I would also have to trade in my bikini for long underwear. The 60-degree winters in Los Angeles could not compare with the 20-degree winters in Maine. But I realized that I could not let Eskimo weather prevent me from getting a good education. So without hesitation, I packed my bags and fearlessly ventured across the country.

About these ads

Coming from Los Angeles, it was really weird to look around Colby and see that most of the faces looked alike. I felt I had to be careful of everything I did, because it seemed as if almost everyone was watching me and would judge my whole race by their impressions. Although I did not feel the need to be accepted by them, I did feel the color of my skin in a way that I had never felt it, and it made me uncomfortable.

At the beginning of the first semester, I used to go to campus parties. I stopped because the music they played was just not happening. Every 10th song would be vaguely familiar to me.

It was a bit exhausting to discuss music with most students since it was as if we were speaking in different languages. I was talking about the lyrical styles of artists like D'Angelou, Mary J. Blidge, and B.O.N.E. Thugs-N-Harmony, and my friends spoke about Third Eye Blind, Jamiroquai, and Jewel.

This gave me the idea to feature Tupac Shakur in my oral Spanish midterm. I got a good grade while exposing the class to the music I like, even if it was in Spanish. A few people from my class wanted to borrow some CDs. Ultimately I found myself listening to the radio station everyone listens to, which turned out not to be so bad after all.

When I talk to people outside of school about living in Maine, they immediately want to hear about any racial conflicts I have had to deal with.

The most blatant show of racism was when someone wrote racial slurs on the board in the office of a campus group I am a member of - Students Organized Against Racism. It hurt to see the disrespect shown by breaking into that room. I was angered by the cowardice and could not believe someone would selfishly invade a room that often acts as a haven for me.

As I get older, I understand that my world has been very confined. Being at Colby for a year has helped me realize that there is an entire world waiting for me to embrace it. I have grown tremendously since my departure from Los Angeles and it hurts to see some people at home in the same place they were when I left.

About these ads

I owe it to myself and everyone who has helped me to reach out and try to help other people. In the fall I will be attending Colby's program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, for a semester, but I'll be back just in time for winter. I have great plans for my life that include writing a book, and I hope I can be an example to a lot of people who come from the same place I have.

* Venola Mason, a sophomore at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, is majoring in Spanish and minoring in math.