SPELMAN COLLEGE... in the months before I arrived, this place represented freedom, responsibility, and adulthood. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and from under my parents. After a childhood full of obstacles, I was ready to finally be at peace. That was the image I had in my mind of this new journey.
The morning I left, it was bitter sweet. I looked around the place I had learned to call home and was confronted with many memories of my past. I was leaving this place and I thought for so long that I was ready, but I realized as I began to bring my luggage down the stairs that I wasn’t as prepared as I thought. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I realized that from this day forth, I would be in a strange place with no one to lean on; or so I thought . Before we hit the beltway, I was on the phone with several people who lived in or near Atlanta who were willing to be there for me, my family away from home. Although I was happy that they were going to be there waiting for me, I was still very afraid. I was leaving my mother, father, church family, and friends behind. I was going to a strange place and I was afraid. I was terribly afraid. In the car, it seemed like the drive was flying by. I wanted to see the campus but I didn’t want my god sister to leave my side. She was there at the present moment, but I knew that by that night she would no longer be there. I would miss her. The trips to Chipotle, the talks we had, the laughs, the cries, and the nights we laughed so hard we cried while playing Scattergories. I wanted to cry, scream, and let anyone who would listen hear my story. So here it is…
As a child in Baltimore I saw so many things that aren’t shown on television. I know first hand what it is like to have a parent who is addicted to drugs and the hurt that it brings. I also know that my past was set in motion before I was born in order to prepare me for a brighter future. In my younger years I learned to keep my feelings bottled up. Dealing with my mother’s addiction was hard for me sometimes because I wouldn’t open up and talk about it. Not even my closest friend that I have known since second grade knows about this. It was my deep dark secret. I felt that people would treat me differently if they knew about it. As I got older, I learned to talk to people about it and that helped me get through the tough times when I felt I was all alone.
My church family has been extremely helpful in this process. The difference between me and some other youth in my same predicament is that I developed and built a strong relationship with God. Although my mother was a part of worldly culture, she always made sure to instill in me the values that her grandmother instilled in her- love God, get an education, and help those around you. These principles became the guidelines for my life. I began my journey the first Sunday of the New Year. I don’t remember the year because I was so young. I do, however remember walking through the doors of Immanuel Temple A.M.E. church with my mother. No matter what she was doing, she made sure I was able to go to church on Sunday mornings. My mother was the one who introduced me to Christ and made sure that I knew that no matter what happened to her, He would be there for me. She also taught me how to pray. I remember nights when she and my nana (my great-grandmother) would help me recite the Lord’s Prayer. The have instilled in me the power of prayer and I know because of this foundation, I can make it through any situation. This foundation began a journey that is continues even now.
My relationship with Christ has been strengthened throughout my journey that led me to Spelman. Watching my mother struggle through her addiction, I vowed that I would do everything in my power not to experience that same pain. I was going to be the one to break the generational curse of addiction, teenage pregnancy, and not having a college education. I knew that moving out of the environment that had shaped me would be a struggle. It was in this neighborhood that I learned what I wanted and didn’t want out of life. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I knew my future was waiting and I had to be the one to step up and claim it.
When I started my college application process I had three schools on my mind: Spelman, Howard, and Johns Hopkins. Those three schools were the ones that I chose to lead me into my future. Little did I know, God had a different plan for my life. Spelman was becoming no more than a dream by the middle of my senior year. Sure, I had the grades and the SAT scores, but I didn’t have the finances. The Bible says ask and it shall be given. During this last period, I did a lot of asking and God was faithful. I received every single scholarship I applied for. My dream was becoming a reality. I would no longer be the little Baltimore girl with the dream leaving her home to find something that would take her to a new dimension. I was becoming a woman. More than that, I was becoming a Spelman, Free Thinking Woman. When we arrived we saw my new Spelman sisters cheering as we pulled through the gate and parents sat their daughter’s belongings on the sidewalk. I was becoming a part of the Spelman Sisterhood. Every student before me had been through this experience and they were there to help me through this difficult transition.
I am really relying on my faith to get me through this journey because I know that I have a lot of people relying on me to make it. “I am the dream and hope of the slave.” People like to think about slavery as being the institution that was abolished with the emancipation proclamation. I, however, see slavery as being caught in a cycle of poverty, addiction, low self esteem, teenage pregnancy, dead end relationships, and whatever else hinders us from reaching our full potential. In Baltimore I saw a lot of things. I had some of my best and worst moments there. It was the place where I met my church family and the place where I lost my brother. But I despite the trials I experienced in Baltimore, it is the place that helped motivate me to want more out of life. This motivation was something that came as my relationship with Christ grew. God began to place people in my life that would help me and encourage me when I felt weary. My pastor and church family in particular helped me when I wanted to give up.
My mother also continues to be a source of motivation because she is the strongest woman I know. No matter how many times she has fallen, she never stops trying. I know that this new journey will be a difficult transition, but with Christ all things are possible. It is because of God that I am able to be here at Spelman. The little girl from east Baltimore has made it to a whole new arena in life and is willing to help those who want to experience something outside of everyday life.
**Update 2015: Sequoia is now a graduate of Spelman College, an ordained minister, and pursuing her seminary degree at Wesley Theological Seminary.