Playing Dress Up (an oldie but goodie)

Wow. I was rummaging through my files and found this old thing from junior year of college. I wrote this for Professor Lawrence Kaggwa, arguably one of the most difficult and dream crushing professors in the journalism department. He gives out D's like candy on Halloween.

This baby got a B. 

It was a joyous occasion. Read and enjoy!

5 p.m. laughter from students freed from final examinations erupts outside of my Howard Plaza Towers dorm room window. It’s a foreign noise to me, having not left my room or hung out with friends in 10 hours. My mouth is dry from reading my Reporting and Writing articles aloud over and over to make sure they sound perfect. My eyelids are sore and heavy from hours glued to my computer screen editing pictures from a photoshoot I did for a classmate’s marketing project. My mind is tired from struggling through Dr. Carr’s book assignment, “Black Marxism” by Cedric Robinson. I am starting to feel defeated. One more paper to go, I tell myself, but I need to step out for a break. I get up from my desk, shake the numbness out of my legs, throw on some street clothes, grab my bag, and drag my feet over to the full length mirror.

I don’t see my weary self. Instead, a confident image stares back through the mirror at me. I blink my heavy and swollen eyelids, but her dark, alert eyes stare back, piercing. I raise my arm to feel through my naturally coiled tresses, yet she pushes back her bone straight, jet black hair behind her ears. I lower my hands to loosen my cream cotton scarf, as I see her snugly fastening her crimson cape around her neck. With a furrowed brow, I tilt my head to the side and examine the reflection of my oversized old gray sweatshirt. I touch my chest; her hand grazes across a block letter ‘W’ printed across her bosom. On the outside I appear to be the typical stressed college student, but when I see myself, I see Wonder Woman.

On a daily basis, I take on that alias. My busiest day starts at 6 a.m. when I join the other members of Beacon Liturgical Dance Ministry to do laps, crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, and stretches for an hour on the track of Banneker Park. I only have a couple hours for a power nap before starting my day as a 19 credit-hour student at 9:40 a.m.

In between classes, I am drafting my articles for the Friday Hilltop deadline while serving my office hours in the Bison Yearbook office. While in Blackburn center, I grab an order of nuggets from Chick-Fil-A to go and return to my dorm room to tackle textbook assignments, papers, and take home tests before Bible study and dance practice at 8 p.m. By 10 p.m., I only have enough energy to crawl back into my unmade bed, as I have to be up and energized for tomorrow. I must trek over from the Towers on Sherman Avenue to Bruce Monroe Elementary School on Warder Street and Otis Place to mentor and do homework with 9-year-old Jordan, my “little sister.”

Mind you, I do this all while trying to keep a steady $20 in my pocket and show my face at every other get-together.

There are no such things as gaps in my schedules. Free time is a fictional concept. I am a walking example of the Howard hustler, bred with the motto, “No days off.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have been the wearer of many hats and have managed to juggle, multitask, and complete my to-do list for the past three years. I can handle it.

I know, willingly overworking oneself is crazy talk. Many times I ask myself, “Why all the baggage? Why put yourself through so much? Why run yourself ragged trying to be an overachiever, Stacy-Ann?” But I already know the answer to that question.

It was the spring of 2008, and I was a senior at the Bronx High School of Science, a predominantly white and Asian institution in New York. I was ecstatic when the thick envelope sent from Howard University showed up in my mailbox. My mother ran up to my room, envelope at hand, yelling, “Stacy-Ann! I got it, I got it!” My mother and I jumped and screamed together as she read off each line of the acceptance letter word for word. “Congratulations, Stacy-Ann…” It was official; I was going to my dream school.

However, when I shared my excitement with my school peers, the most common response I got was a furrowed brow, scrunched up face and a “Why?” My so-called friend, who was African-American as well, even threw back her head in laughter and said, “Employers scoff at resumes with black schools on it. If you go to Howard, you’ll end up working at McDonald’s with a baby at home.”

I knew that there were individuals like myself who had become legends after matriculating from an HBCU. Zora Neal Hurston, Thurgood Marshall, Phylicia Rashaad, Debbie Allen, Dr. Ossie Davis. All successful, all Howard alumni, none working fast food. Clearly, she didn’t do thorough enough research.

Nevertheless, I’ll never forget just how much those words stung.  

Since then, it has been my primary goal to disprove her words. A 2007 study in the Journal of Consumer Research revealed that negative opinions cause the greatest attitude shifts. As best phrased by rap superstar and music producer Kanye West, “I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem, or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams.”

I took those lyrics to heart. Instead of letting my classmate’s words settle in my mind, I used them as fuel to reach greater milestones. I refuse to sit back and allow anyone’s predictions of my failure to come true.

One of the most influential and inspirational figures of today was able to use naysayers’ words as momentum to achieve his goals. In the days leading up to his November 4th victory, President Barack Obama had been publicly doubted and criticized on his race, religion, experience, and political views. Even so, throughout his campaign, he reassured the country of his leadership abilities with the slogan, “Yes We Can.” In reality, he was saying “Yes I Can” to those that claimed he was unable to win. According to a poll conducted by CNN, in December of 2008 President Obama had an approval rating of 79%, which was greater than the ratings of both the two preceding presidents. The negativity from the media and opposing parties in fact strengthened him.

If that isn’t determination, I don’t know what is.

I am the historian for Beacon Liturgical Dance Ministry, a volunteer dance teacher at Sitar Arts Center, a contributing writer for The Hilltop, a copy intern for the Bison Yearbook, a Woman to Woman Conference volunteer, a mentor for Big Brother Big Sister, an independent photographer, and most importantly, a student. I have roles and responsibilities that some students in other schools may not normally want to take on, but I know I will be satisfied when I prove to myself that I can do all the things my doubtful classmate claimed to be doing with her undergraduate life, but do them better.

When I am feeling helpless, tired, ready to give up, indifferent or any other adjectives in the English language personifying failure, I play her words of discouragement over and over in my head.

For example, I have been told that I would not be able to keep a high GPA at a socially dubbed “party school.” I currently have a 3.59 GPA. Last time I chatted with my main discourager, she was barely scraping at 3.0.

During situations like these, I replay the scene from that day of school. I clearly picture her face while laughing at my acceptance letter. I feel my face get red hot again. Sometimes re-experiencing anger is just what you need to get that bit of oomph and the desire to keep going.

Do not tell me I can’t be someone great, because I will be the first one to prove to you otherwise. Someone’s got to be the superhero. As the saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it,” so for now: Hello, my name is Wonder Woman.


  1. Stacy, you're so amazing! Been cyberstalking you today. I'm proud.


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