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Being Young, Black and in College.

A trip to Dawson College. Its 12.00 noon on a Thursday. The metro entrance is crowded as usual. There are people moving in all directions. A walk down the lower atrium leads you to the escalator. One floor up and you find yourself on the second floor. This floor hosts many of the important administrative departments but it is most renowned for its two big cafeterias. A turn of the head either to the left or the right and a mass of black faces stare at you directly.

The first impression you get is that there is a dominant black population in this school. However, this assumption is wrong. There are no official records giving the population of black students at Dawson. It is however estimated that they consist of at least 10% of the total number of students. Most people will argue with this estimate, insisting that the percentage is much higher. Going into a classroom tells the real story, for it is very normal to find out that there are a couple or more black students only in each class. The amount of classes without any black students is an issue on its own.

Welcome to the fun party. Thatís what college is all about! At least to the average black student. Take for example, the black students hanging around on the second floor. 40% of them are talking about a variety of topics ranging from music, sports, latest movie flicks, schoolwork and sex. 30% of them are playing card games and dominoes, 20% are checking out the hot guys and the honeys and the remaining 10% are either eating lunch or studying.

The future seems to look bleak for the black leaders of tomorrow. There seems to exist a notion that the educational system is pro white. People just have to think of their parents who acquired diplomas and degrees but never could use them to find a job of their choice. Will there be any good jobs for us out there? Will any reputable university admit me to the program of my choice? Will my race serve as an obstacle regardless of my educational qualifications? These are some of the questions that the black youths face in college.

As I say this, there is that uncomfortable feeling that some people are just blacker than others. This simply means we all feel very different. To the outside world, there shall not be many distinctions in creating stereotypes of the typical black man. The chairperson of the social cultural activity council at Dawson, Dejha Carrignton said, " black students are unique in individuality but must learn about solidarity. Islands of thought separate us. Itís also refreshing to see many of us in school maximizing our potentials".

Truer words cannot be used to describe the general situation of things. The root of unity has to be built on the knowledge of common undeniable ancestry. This will create a brotherhood and sisterhood based on true family values. The story shall always be, united we stand, divided we fall. Dawson students are beginning to realize this concept. Due to this awareness, the two black clubs on campus fused into one called "The African Legacy". The club is still far from perfect but this is because most of us do not have a common culture of behavior that we follow.

An international student from Nigeria, Chukwudi Umelo said that he doesnít have the ability to fully socialize with the other black students. This was because he could not really fit in. They had different backgrounds. He said that he has never seen himself being black as an obstacle in his ambition of becoming a successful mechanical engineer. Michaelle Belice, current president of "The African Legacy" said that there were two groups of students, the serious and the lost students. They are in an almost 50 to 50 percent ratio to each other. These two groups also exist in the general black community. This is a very strong statement but most people will agree that it is not baseless without reason.

Many of the black youths really donít seem to have a purpose in college. It was not uncommon to hear replies of, " I donít know " when asked to comment on their reason of coming to college. Some said that it was because their parents told them to and it was also a fashionable thing. Others just knew that they had to come to college before going on to university. " Some of them are very childish and feel that they are still in high school. They have to grow up. They form cliques and donít integrate with others ", said Lloydie Pascal, former president of ABACUS and The African Legacy, boiling with rage.

Black youths need to be more positive. The next millennium is going to be the best time for black youths considering the last four centuries. Nobody cares what color is the person who finds a solution to the Y2K (year 2000 computer bug). We have to move from being just problem identifiers but also problem solvers. Black educated working people in the community should organize career seminars. More scholarships should be created. Our Canadian counterparts ought to take a cue from the Americans who organize the United Negro College Fund yearly. Parents should take it as a point of duty to educate their children on matters pertaining to their real history. Black power should be geared as being more in the head than in the fists. As much black people, as possible should be urged to go to institutions of higher learning. Youths should be appreciated for being the pacesetters of tomorrow. Leadership by example should be the watchword. Youths must then be totally responsible for their actions and speech.

I think we are ready to tackle the future and seek our rightful and honorable place as the head and not the tail.

Uche Bryan Chuta Youth Magazine, Montreal Community Contact, 1st Edition, 1998.

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