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Sense of Self

Since coming to Swarthmore as a shy freshman in the fall of 2017, many experiences have shaped me into the proud Afro-Latinx queer man I am today.

I arrived just starting my gender transition, trying to figure out who I wanted to be as I became more independent.

I was attracted to Swarthmore after seeing my cousin and brother thrive here and continue their graduate education at Yale and Howard. That exemplified what this college can do to prepare students for life after graduation. I knew this was the right place for me as a curious and eager young adult.

Now a junior, I am a Black studies and music major. Without Swarthmore’s liberal arts education, I would not have been able to experiment with different disciplines and find what worked best for me. I have taken classes in many departments, including psychology, art history, Latin American and Latino studies, astronomy, history, and English. These courses allowed me to explore many of my academic interests and opened my mind to the different routes of study available.

Without becoming involved in student groups like the Swarthmore African-American Student Society, Students of Caribbean Ancestry, and ENLACE, I would not have been able to embrace my many identities. SASS and ENLACE provided spaces for me to explore my Black and Latinx backgrounds, and I am now co-president of SOCA with one of my closest friends.

The dinners, parties, discussions, and large TriCo events held by these groups helped me embrace my cultural background in a way I had not been able to in high school. SOCA gave me a perfect middle ground between my identities and provided a space for me to explore my Jamaican and Puerto Rican roots with other Caribbean Swatties.

But I also had to accept that as a primarily White institution, Swarthmore can sometimes feel less than inclusive. A range of my personal experiences—from the sense of being unwelcome, to hostility—have also shaped my time here.

I am at a place in my college career where I want to apply what I am learning to my communities as much as possible. This is where Black studies comes in. By combining cultural studies and music, my goal is to do ethnomusicological research in graduate school on my way to a career in education.

Between academics and student groups, I am finding a balance that allows me to be engaged with my own communities within the College. I have been able to discuss my identities on a deeper level, as my classes have given me the knowledge to reflect on my experiences in a way I could not have when I was younger. Swarthmore has given me the opportunity to engage intellectually, not only with others but, more importantly, with myself.

This has helped me discover who I want to be in this world—and how to apply my knowledge in my communities.

I am hopeful about this year of Celebrating Black Excellence, which should be about acknowledging and giving back to Swarthmore College’s Black community. And although I believe Swarthmore has more work to do to become a space of true inclusivity and acceptance, I also have hope that this celebratory year can help bring about some needed change.