I went to Princeton knowing very little about it. I researched the programs online and looked up specific professors I wanted to talk, but other than that, I went because it was a paid trip to Jersey.
When I arrived, I did not know what to expect. I had in my mind that I would encounter a group of upity white people, and they would have this air of superiority about them, and they would be trying to sell their institution. I thought it would be a space of discomfort, as I yet again would have to fragment myself and play down my blackness, so I could fit in the space. I thought I would have to drop some names and alter my speech, so I would sound like I knew what I was talking about. I thought I would go in only bringing a part of me. But, that was not the case.
Starting with the scenery, it was beautiful. The warm shades of orange, green, and brown permeated the space. The air was crisp and fresh, and all I wanted to do was walk around. When I entered my first session, late of course, there were a lot more brown faces than I expected. In all honesty, most of the people in the warm were of African and Hispanic descent. It was as breathtaking as the outside view. But, there was something else that stood out to me. It was the spirit of those present.
They were genuine. They created a space of inclusion and discourse. They did not encourage one way of thinking. They welcomed all perspectives. So was the same about the classrooms.
The professors were not interested in the regurgitation of information. They wanted to know how it impacted you. What was beyond the words. And, if there was an unsettling statement, what’s the driving force behind it was. It was an open space for each unique voice to be heard. With each class, each seminar, each story, I saw a different side of Princeton than I originally anticipated, and I wondered what it would be like to constantly live in this type of environment.
Then it happened. On our last afternoon together, while the three alumni spoke, I found my conversation partners. As they each stood up and shared their stories, I said to myself, “I need to talk to them.” I knew I needed to connect with them and glean how they overcame their hurdles. But, I would wait until everyone left after it was all over.
But, then she spoke. She spoke as if she was reading the pages of my journal. She told the details of my story. She exposed the intricacies and private nuances of my insecurities. She shared my failures. She spoke of my life. And, told everyone of how I was completely undone.
I sat in tears, as I listened to each word. “Someone gets me. Someone else shares in my struggle. Someone else knows my pain.” I fought to keep from bursting out in an ugly cry, but the more she continued the harder it became. And, when she shared how God made space for her, affirmed her, and took care of her, I could no longer sit in silence.
This beautiful black woman, also with an Olivia daughter, had walked the path I was now on, and she was in her promised land. Through all her trials and her tests, God had now allowed her to operate in the sweetness of her authentic being. And, so was the same for the beautiful black woman before her. God sent me who I had been searching for. Authentic Black woman ministers who had already walked the course and now had the capacity to come back and guide me along the way. They are the ladies I need in order to make it past the bullies and the giants, so I can reach the land God has for me. They are the prayer partners, the mentors, the spiritual guides who will help me overcome the hurdle of myself and move into the fullness of my being. These Authentic Black Women Ministers are my Champions!
I went to Princeton to learn about the PhD program, but I left with Champions.