Happy Monday, folks!
This past weekend, my high school, Westminster Schools of Atlanta, held its inaugural Black Alumni Conference.
My brother, who also went to Westminster, was on the planning committee, and strongly encouraged me to come. While I was not one of the featured speakers, I do have a lot to say about how I felt as a young black child who attended one of the most prestigious and elite K-12 private schools in the Southeast.
My short answer to those contemplating sending their black or brown child to a majority white school is: GO FOR IT. During our Black Alumni Weekend, I heard stories of my fellow Westminster alumni that were harrowing. Some older graduates recalled instances of being called the N-word. Others detailed being the only person in their class, and it being extremely difficult. I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t have moments where I felt unseen or unheard. One that sticks out to me is when my cheerleading squad was told we couldn’t dance to the very popular “booty music” that was big in 1998 Atlanta because some parent took issue with it (despite us being in Atlanta, the home of said music, and the squad being half women of color).
Was the incident racist? Cultural? Would a black parent have also taken issue with us wanting to shake our booties to booty music? Perhaps! But at the end of the day, I was able to fight through any difficulties or cultural clashes, go on to Harvard (where both my brother and I went), and am now the CEO of my own company that focuses on diversity–perhaps because I felt it was so sorely lacking at my high school.
I remember being a member of our Diversity club and making collages of beautiful images of people of all shades–the precursor to Fashion Bomb Daily. Somehow, I was able to filter out all the good from any negative instances. And to be honest, I would not be who I am today without the amazing education Westminster provided.
On the other hand I have many classmates who were scarred by Westminster. Classmates who, instead of being inspired by our uber wealthy classmates (who drove luxury cars and lived in mega mansions), felt insecure, inferior, or intimated. Some classmates who hated that they didn’t always have dates to prom–or at all. Some who hated the pressure of the academics. Westminster is not for everyone.
There are people who allow adverse situations to defeat them, but I was personally motivated to achieve. When I saw my classmates with big houses and cars, I was inspired to get my own. When I didn’t make honor roll or good grades, I worked until I did. No-one to date? I went to an international summer school and was surrounded by students from all over the world (where I was able to date AND dance to booty music). There are ways to work around issues if you are resourceful.
I remember asking my mom if I could go to a public school with more diverse faces and she told me to shut up and go to school (shout out to my Caribbean mother). She wouldn’t allow me to quit. Perhaps she knew that whatever fun you don’t have in high school you can make up for in college or over the summer. Go to Westminster for the education, and then go take over the world!
I have other friends who say it’s too expensive and they don’t want to change their lifestyle to send their kids to school. Let me tell you that a good education is priceless. And with all we, as people of color, STILL have to deal with as adults, I’d say arm your child with the best you can afford (and if you can’t, there is always financial aid). I still have to deal with racism as an entrepreneur in the fashion industry, but one thing people can’t take away from me is my education. And its one that can open up doors, create connections, and lead to overall success.
Perhaps my brother and I are anomalies, but we loved Westminster and still have tremendous pride in being Wildcats. Is there room for improvement? Heck yeah. But we can’t make a change without addressing issues head on , getting involved, sharing our testimonies, and pouring into current and future students.
Those are just a few of my thoughts. What about you? Did you go to a majority white high school? Would you send your kids there?
Love & Light,
*Yes I repped for FashionBombDailyshop.com the whole time! Get my looks here.
*I also brought my own photographers because sometimes you need a back up! Shout out to Drew Visions/Google is Human.
**My school colors are green and white, hence my color palette. Someone called these looks dressy, but I’m wearing jeans for one look and a sweatsuit for another! At any rate, whenever I’m in public, I want to say a lot without saying a word. But hopefully I’ll be on the speakers list for next Alumni Weekend.
** Shout out to my classmates, many of whom are still friends to this day.