The Black Community Through My Eyes

38815_1481912041023_578273_nThe Black Community Through My Eyes
Written by Mark Bauer
Rutgers University may be known as one of the leaders in student diversity but there is just something magical about the African-American community here on campus in my opinion.  I love the social events hosted by the Afro-organizations including the larger parties held in the student centers, more casual social events on the weekends, fierce annual dance competitions and much more.  Throughout my career as a student here at the university, I’ve truly enjoyed my social experience. As graduation nears I can say I will definitely miss these experiences.
During my freshman year similar to most first year students, I was trying to digest and get a full understanding of what college is. Being of non-African American decent, let me tell you my story of how I became so heavily involved in the African-American community here on campus.
The sexy walk just came out and it was a hot new dance everyone wanted to learn. One of the most talented dance crews I met on campus was Chaos Theory. I still think about that audition I had with them ‘til this day and how terrified I was when learning the choreography. I’m still in contact with some of the members too. I never quite knew if people actually thought I had skills or if it was because I was white. Whatever it was, I kept on dancing and kept meeting more and more people within the black community. I had no idea that it would develop into so much more.
My first year introduced me to the black community, but sophomore year was when I developed real relationships with people. It was also when I experienced my first student center party. I remember most particularly the Halloween student center party called “Hide and Go Freak.” I grew up with dance parties like that so I had a feeling what to expect, but it definitely was an experience nonetheless. A lot of my friends were begging me to dance up on stage, but I was never a guy to do something like that. But when club music comes on, as any dancer knows, you just let the beat take over. I got up on stage and danced to Team Franklin’s song “Get Saucy” in front of at least a hundred people. After that night, everyone knew me as “the white boy who could dance.” A lot of graduates still address me as that name. They can’t help but associate me with dancing. Also, sophomore year was the beginning of my friendship with an upperclassman named Willy, who although his skin color was white like mine, was a popular member of the black community. I tell people all the time he was like a big brother to me. He was white like me, but everyone in the black community knew and respected him. He was someone who I could look up to for guidance. We shared a lot of the same experiences, and that’s why I think we got along so well. Although he graduated and is about to start his career, I still feel very close to him and consider him my older brother.
Junior year can be summed up by one organization—Twese. I used to hear about the African organization called Twese around campus, but I just never got around to go to a meeting. It was my junior year, and I wanted to experience new things. I had a couple of friends who were a part of Twese, and so I went. Lets just say I’ve been going back ever since. Being a member of Twese has been one of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. Twese was my first exposure with African culture. Here I learned African music, African food (Jollof being my favorite), dances like the Azonto, and many aspects of the culture that I was unfamiliar with. Besides all that, I made a ton of friends that I now call some of my best friends. Being involved with Twese, I participated in a date-auction, two banquets which highlighted African culture, weekly meetings with various topics in the African community, and a fashion show. The fashion show is one of my most memorable experiences at Rutgers. I actually wasn’t even planning on trying out, but a friend convinced me to just show up. I showed up and decided, “What’s the worst that can happen? I probably won’t even make it.” I was terrified of the audition, but I kept telling myself to stay confident. My confidence worked, and I got a call-back a week later saying that I’ve been chosen to model. The much anticipated night finally arrived, and on my third walk, I did an azonto solo. I can still hear the crowd from that night. I believe that everyone expected it because before I danced, they started to cheer. Regardless, It was such an amazing experience. All of the friendships I made with the models, and the feedback I got afterwards are things that I’ll never forget. Twese and the African community have given me so many memories throughout these last two years. The people I’ve met will stay with me far long after I graduate. Besides being a part of Twese, I now see my perception changing within the black community. People don’t know me as “the white boy that can dance,” but now they refer to me as “the white boy from Twese” or “the guy who’s at all the black events.” Maybe because I’m slowly getting away from club dances, or because I just don’t put my effort into dancing like I used to. But my image in the black community definitely changed from freshman and sophomore year to junior year. The association of dancing and I isn’t as strong anymore. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just what it is.
That leads me up to current day. Senior year has been a whirlwind. I’m preparing for the next chapter in my life, but also trying to enjoy the remaining time I have l left. My image in the black community is constantly changing from year to year, but my appreciation for all of the people in my life is constant. Whenever I feel myself in a funk, I always try and experience new things. I think change has been one aspect of my four years that has kept things interesting for me. I’m always challenging myself. Being involved with the black community has forced me to grow as a person. It has pushed me to do things that I am not familiar with. It has opened up a whole new world for me. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change any of it.
“We can make the best or worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.”
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