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Paralysis vs. Blackness

For laughs, first, check out this recent skit from SNL. It is SPOT on, if you’ve been paying attention to the popular media lately.

As I wrote earlier this month, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that my identity as a man who has paralysis living with him is much stronger than my identity as a Black man. While MMDI will give you a great explanation of how you can have many social identities, and I definitely do hold many, my identity as a man with a disability is by far the strongest identity that I have.

I think a lot about both identities, especially in terms of how they impact the role that I play in the world and how people perceive me, too. Now, don’t take that to mean that I would want to change myself so that others perceive me differently – it simply means that I am conscious of the fact that people may assume certain things about me based on those identities.

That’s one of the major reasons I accepted the invitation to speak at the 3rd Annual Virginia Tech Uplifting Black Males Conference this weekend. It’s sponsored by the Black Male Excellence Network at VT. Not only was the conference essentially founded by a friend of mine, Reggie S., during our years in graduate school, but I think it’s extremely important to give Black students at Virginia Tech but one example of what being a “successful” Black Virginia Tech alum looks like.

Truth is, a lot of black students feel like they were the recipient of “bait and switch” tactics during their recruitment to the university. They felt like they came for Gateway, and they got to meet just about every Black student on campus, but when they got here – they finally realized that that was just about every Black student on campus.

Unfortunately, it’s not a stretch at all to see it that way. But that also means that I should, can, and will do what I can as an alum to help that transition and their time at the university come along a bit more easily.

More than anything, I’m excited that the goal of this year’s conference is to give examples of the many diverse stories that Black males have to share. My story, I like to think, is somewhat unique – heck, that’s maybe why I’ve been able to make somewhat of a living by sharing it with other people. But more than anything and most importantly I hope to be a model of a different path that you can take toward success during your time at Virginia Tech. Come to the Uplifting Black Men Conference on Friday to learn more.