Dear Meredith Edlow,
I think it was a tweet I made just days ago, about a lack of teachers of color throughout college, that made me realize how important having you as a professor was.
I’m sure you remember my nonchalance, like Emilio Estevez in “The Breakfast Club,” in an introductory journalism course. I neither shined as a student nor did I display any sort of journalistic promise (rightfully so? Perhaps to be decided in the next five years).
Our class was so small, and it could have easily been a film student’s parody of the aforementioned “Breakfast Club,” but somehow we meandered through discussions of crime in the context of Truman Capote and race.
I felt enlightened — not from the texts you had us read — but from how my mind expanded in this oversized room in Tuttleman Learning Center.
It’s a funny thing. My entire academic career is now bittersweetly coming to a close, and throughout I can count the women of color who have taught me on one hand (with difficulty, too).
It may have after my mother realized that middle school lotteries and metal detectors were substandard for my education — and moved us from Baltimore to a sleepy, rural Central Pennsylvania town — when I lost Black women to look up to outside of my family.
No longer were there Alpha Kappa Alphas who picked me up from school and the Johns Hopkins Hospital nurses who made their presence known at Red Robin on Friday nights. I suppose I felt confident in my Blackness. I felt proud enough of my mother’s efforts. But undeniably, moving took a toll. It affected my perceptions of myself, the world, my imagination and my creativity.
And perhaps most importantly, once I had you as a professor, the feeling of impostor syndrome, which manifested in a constant struggle to approach my professors and find a reason for me to be in school, went away.
Those feelings dissipated, to an extent, as I was faced with a professor who was just like me. We had many conversations about our roles as Black people, Black women, and the never-ending vacillation of fitting in and feeling frustratingly separate.
Prior to your course, I had never met an adult Black woman who shared so many of my own interests, with a social life that mirrored my own.
As a first-generation college student, so much of my experience relied on this mirror and this sense of community. There is a desire to find my people, a group that is a patchwork of personalities that somehow make a beautiful blanket of comfort and understanding. “Your people” can show you a future and lead you there.
You showed me that there is nothing that compares to realizing the kind of life that is possible for someone like you.
Meredith, you are one of my people.
Senior political science major