The 30 and Over Club and My Home By the Sea

Upon turning 30 I made a vow that I would never seek or accept the 30 and Over Club Card.  For those of you that aren’t in the Washington DC area, the 30 and over Club Card is an actual card that 102.3 awards to listeners that gives them “perks” in the city. 

I’m always amused by the people that call in with the hopes they will get their card…I think to myself, are these people really that excited to be being inducted into the 30 and over club?? 

Being 30 definitely has its perks, and I’m sure my parents would have said the same thing about turning 50 – but I can guarantee that they wouldn’t have been calling into a radio station and waiting in cue to announce to the entire listening audience that it was their time to receive the 50 and over AARP card.

I’m of the mind frame that the 30 and over club shouldn’t necessarily be a literal club.  The fact that one is 30 and over automatically puts them in a club of sorts, without even electing membership. 

In fact, it turns out that this weekend I attended a 30 and over club party and I didn’t even have a card…sweet.  It was quite a revelation when I found out that I was at the 30 and over party, and how did I find out that I was at the 30 and over party you ask – because a 22 year old pointed it out.  Here’s how I was told that the conversation went, true story….

Setting:  Hampton University Homecoming
Date:  Saturday, October 24
Good looking man (class of 99 graduate) says to pretty 20-something:  “Hey, what party are you going to tonight?”
Good looking 20 something says to good looking class of 99 graduate:  “Not sure, there are a lot of options, what party are you going to?”
Good looking class of 99 graduate says to pretty 20-something:  “I think I’m going to the party at Fusion”
Good looking 20 something says to good looking class of 99 graduate:  “Isn’t that the 30 and over party???”

I was told that the good looking class of 99 graduate was so caught off guard by the young woman’s statement that he was at a loss for words…so there you have it – both he and I were going to the 30 and over party and not only were we un-aware of this, but we didn’t even need a card to enter. 

DS Download:  I was that young woman once…in fact, I’m pretty sure that I may have said the exact same thing to a 30-something that was spitting game to me at homecoming.  So the fact that the tables have turned and I am now the 30-something is hilarious. 

I have to say that the 30 and over club is hot.  It was amazing to go back to homecoming and see so many of the faces that I remember.  The party at Fusion was like stepping into a time machine.  It’s a given that many of us couldn’t recall each others names, but I dare say that we all remember each others faces – beautiful faces, that for the most part have not changed. 

It’s amazing how being back on the yard can take you to a time and place when you were young and carefree, knowing that the only thing you had to worry about was the next exam or whether or not the sorority or fraternity of your choice was going to have a line that year – and at the time, those worries felt so real.

We were there to celebrate our Hampton experience, and express our gratitude for what our Home by the Sea gave us.  Granted, many of us got grief from the administration, but if you actually look at the bonds that Hampton gave us, there is so much to be grateful for. 

Hampton gave us our life long friends; it gave us our nieces and nephews, our god sons and daughters, and it gave us a place where we could come of age with an amazing group of people that we will forever have a connection with.  These connections allow us to rejoice in our classmates successes, and feel pain in our classmate’s tragedies. 

This was a bittersweet homecoming as many of us found out on Friday that one of our classmates – Dr. Ed Antoine – passed away.  Ed, you will be dearly missed by all that knew you and loved you.  You can rest assured that you will never be forgotten and that your Hampton family will continue to celebrate your life and legacy…wherever there are Hamptonians, raising a glass or giving each other a warm embrace, you will be there with us.

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COLLEGE BOUND

“What is success?  To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; that is to have succeeded.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote was in my head this morning as I was reflecting on the powerful experience I had last night at a College Bound meeting in North East Washington DC.  As a part of the curriculum of one of my graduate courses I’ve taken on College Bound as a client, for research reasons I attended a Thursday night study session at The Beacon House location. 

College Bound’s main goal is to pair students with adult mentors to see that underserved children not only graduate from high school but go on to attend a college of their choice.  Last night, students and mentors were serious about meeting that goal. 

It sounds cliché but there was something very special about last night’s meeting.  There was power in that room; a tangible feeling that these people – students and mentors – were fighting to ensure that these students would be the exception to the rule.  And the rule in DC is staggering; 11 children drop out of DC public schools each day, and according to a 2009 Washington Post article, the on-time graduation rate for DCPS has fallen below 50 percent.  Standing by and watching our children fail is heart breaking.  But the power in a program like College Bound is that adults and kids play an active role in ensuring that kids succeed.

I interviewed two kids last night and one of them, a young lady, looked me in the eye and told me that in her school she had to be her own advocate because the overwhelming majority of students made the learning environment extremely challenging.  So basically, it was not easy to go to school, and sit in class and just learn; as my grandfather used to say – that thing almost choked me up. 

I can’t imagine having to deal with all of the stress of being a teenager in high-school, and dealing with the frustration of realizing that the majority of your peers are sabotaging your learning environment…and the kids that I met last night are smart enough to see that education is the way out.  To feel that your way out is sabotaged most likely explains the intolerable behavior that we witness on the streets, but I digress. 

DS Download:  Although I almost choked up there was nothing sad about College Bound, there was only inspiration; Inspiration that adults wanted to volunteer their time to these kids, and inspiration that these kids are fighting for their future – in spite of the odds, and the very real circumstances that surround them.  Unfortunately, a young girl (not affiliated with College Bound) was shot and killed outside of the Beacon House just a week before.  She was a victim of random community violence.  Last night the College Bound site coordinator told me that many of the children knew this girl, and had attended her funeral services earlier in the day, and in spite of all of that, they were still at College Bound, meeting with their mentors and doing their homework. 

These young kids are FIGHTING to learn, and be better and if that’s not a living testimony then I don’t what is.   

In these tough times its easy for many of us to question our success – are we making enough money?  Are we driving the right car?  Have we met the right person?  etc…but I guess the real question is – have we set out to affect a child’s life?  When I think of success stories, I think of the adults and the children that were in that room last night. 

If you live in the Washington DC area and have time to become a mentor and affect a child’s life please contact College Bound at 202.842.0858 – site locations and times are as follows:

– Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm @ Sherwood Recreation Center
– Mondays, 6:30-8:30pm @ Gonzaga High School
– Wednesdays, 6-8pm @ Cesar Chavez Public Carters School Capitol Hill Campus
– Thursday, 6-8pm @ Beacon House Community Center

The Real Issue with the Newly Crowned Miss Hampton University

Unfortunately, sometimes when we are angry we don’t take the time to sit down and clearly articulate what the real issue is behind our anger.  Because of this we can find ourselves in trivial arguments, saying things that we really don’t mean.  But, if we took the time to do the hard work and dissect our feelings, we might be able to make a better case for them.    

For those of you who are unaware, a young woman who is Caucasian was recently crowned Miss Hampton University.  She is a recent transfer, a nursing major, and per the news reports, she attends classes at Hampton University’s satellite campus in Virginia Beach.

At first glance, it would appear that any uproar related to this young woman’s crowning was related to her skin color – however, if you look deeper, people’s resentment of her win is not about her skin color it’s about the fact that it seems that the judges of the Miss Hampton University pageant blatantly ignored the rich and very real student culture, and selected a student that was not known by the student body as having an active presence on campus.

I attended Hampton University from 1997 to 2001 and vividly remember White and Puerto Rican students that were active members of the student body – active in sports, active in social clubs, actively hanging out “on the yard”, and actively perceived as an integral part of Hampton University’s culture.  Any of those “minority” students that I just mentioned would have been supported had they decided to run for representative positions. 

Life teaches us – in fact Hampton taught us, that perception, and immersion is extremely important.  Anybody that attended Hampton during my time remembers the strict dress codes that the administration enforced (no do rags, no pants hanging below a certain point)…in fact, a couple of years ago, Hampton made the news because the school of business mandated that students could not wear corn rows.  The message that Hampton was sending to the student body is that perception and assimilating into your environment are extremely important.

Now, the student body is sending the exact same message to the panel, and the administration – and that message is that the student body expects that their representatives will have been actively involved and integrated in the fabric of campus life.  This is a fair argument. 

I feel confident that if the young woman would have been active in student organizations, and  a visible force on campus then the majority of students would have supported her win.  Yes, her white skin would have made the news, but the student body would have stood by her – but the fact that the students perceive the newly crowned Miss Hampton as side stepping the “Hampton experience” has caused outrage in her win.

If you did not attend an HBCU, you may not be aware of the very real culture that exists at historically black colleges and universities.  The “black college experience” is not spoken of in jest.  It is a real experience that is a part of our heritage. 

Many people (including some blacks), feel that HBCU’s have become obsolete institutions, I whole heartedly disagree with these people.  One of the definitions of heritage is something that is passed down from preceding generations, a tradition.  Granted, there are positive and negative traditions…however, for many in the black community, attending HBCU’s is as integral to their positive heritage and cultural traditions as; Quinceanera celebrations in the Hispanic community, or bar mitzvah’s in the Jewish community etc…I think you see where I’m going with this. 

No, attending an HBCU is not a religious rite of passage, but for many African Americans, it is as important as that.  It is about paying homage to institutions that educated our parents, and grandparents when, by law and custom, they could not attend majority institutions.  HBCU’s still play an extremely relevant role in providing a cultural experience for African Americans, they allow African Americans to receive the invaluable experience of coming of age in a majority environment, as most students spend the first 18 years of their life immersed in experiences where they are the minority.

DS Download:  Given our history in this country it has become essential to our survival that we build a heritage that uplifts us as a people.  HBCU’s have been a MAJOR part of that fabric and upliftment.  Because many of us have no idea what village our ancestors came from; which language our great, great, great, grandfathers spoke; what our family crest was or what the African equivalent may have looked like etc – attending HBCU’s, and immersing ourselves in a majority experience for four years is something that we adopted as uniquely ours; something special and positive that we ingrained in our heritage.  It is how many of our parents, and grandparents met.  It is how many black professionals built wealth and continue to build wealth, and the tradition and importance of HBCU’s and the black college experience cannot be denied.

That being said – THERE IS ROOM FOR INCLUSION in the black college experience.  I know this for a fact because I saw it when I was at Hampton.  But, inclusion without a perceived investment in the culture will always encounter resistance – and it is that way with any institution.

Just as Hampton teaches us that when we go out into the real world/corporate America we will need to march to the beat of the corporate drum (perhaps cut our natural hair, learn to play golf, watch the base in our voice etc)…when a student comes to our campus they need to do the same thing – immerse themselves in the culture of Hampton University’s campus.  In fact, any student looking to represent a college campus should be an integral part of the campuses culture first.

There is nothing wrong with Hampton University students wanting to be represented by a Miss Hampton that is actively involved in student culture and campus life.  And if given the choice between an in-active black student, and an actively engaged white student, I’m confident that any Hamptonian would choose the latter – regardless of their white skin.

When my parents went to Hampton Miss Hampton was elected by the student body – the administration needs to let the student body vote for the student that they feel would best represent them.

The Old Switch-er-oo

Recently I pulled the old switcheroo on myself…in a dream.  So, I’m in and out of sleep when I have this dream that I purchased the Blueprint 3 CD – only to get home and pull the CD out of the bag to find that it has morphed into the Sasha Fierce album.  What the hell??  In my dream I remember being determined to get the new Jay-Z album, so why the switcheroo to Sasha Fierce?

This dream definitely messed with my head a bit.  Ever since Jay-Z’s performance at the MTV music awards I’ve been telling myself that I need to get the Blueprint 3 album, so imagine my dismay when in my dream, despite my best efforts, I end up getting Sasha Fierce.  I guess that my sub conscious self believes that the Single Ladies performance trumped Jay-Z’s performance, and no matter how much I think I want the Jay-Z album I’m really all about a fierce leotard and some stilettos while singing Shoulda Put a Ring On It.

DS Download:  I actually awoke from my sleep saddened that I’d pulled the old switcheroo on myself.  I wasn’t sure if I had awoken from a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare…wait for it… I guess I’ll have to go buy the album in real life – ugh.

The sad part is that I don’t even know where to go by albums anymore.  I said this recently and a friend told me “go buy it at Target.” 

Please don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Target, but something about buying the Blueprint 3 album at Target seems soft.  It seems analogous to purchasing a vintage t-shirt at J Crew, or paying for a class on learning the art of graffiti that includes a special tour of the best locations in the city to display your work.  Perhaps that seems ridiculous, but those are just my thoughts – just what I was feeling at the time.