This academic year, I have been trying to be more intentional about how I am an ally to my friends and diverse groups at the Nicholas School and the Duke community as a whole. Last year, I struggled with my own sense of community and belonging at the Nicholas School because I did not have a lot of people I could connect with at different levels of my life. Despite this, I have formed strong friendships with some of my classmates and they keep me motivated and grounded. I think the strength of these friendships comes partially from the fact that we all embrace each other’s identities, celebrate them and normalize them. It’s a bit difficult for me to express this without feeling uncomfortable and fumbling a bit in explaining this, so I am asking you to bear with me. If I get something wrong, please tell me.
The people I call my closet friends at the Nicholas School are women. They are from different countries, queer, Muslim, Jewish, differently-abled, immigrants, non-citizens, and women of color. This is my normal. It means that I am constantly learning and figuring out how I can create a comfortable and loving space for them because the world does not always treat my friends with respect. I could say that for me, I don’t have to think about doing this work because I cannot fathom treating them any less than the amazing people they are, but that would be dismissing how much work actually goes into reshaping my thoughts and inner biases. It would erase the way I was raised and the experiences that have defined and shaped my reality. So yes, I put in work even if it does not look like I am. I am careful with my words and question the thoughts that pop into my brain. I ask questions and for forgiveness. I thank my friends for allowing me the space to grow and learn.
At the Nicholas School, I am trying to find different avenues to be an ally. This year, I am serving as the president of the student club, DICE, the Diverse and Inclusive Community for the Environment. The club is responsible for serving the needs of all diverse communities at the Nicholas School mostly through events and discussions. We have had conversations and events on race and implicit bias, sexual violence, and diversity in the workplace. But this does not cover the scope of all of the diversity that makes up the Nicholas School.
At the beginning of the school year, it came to my attention that some LGBTQIA+ people at the Nicholas School feel ignored by DICE. I took this personally because I do not want anyone feeling invisible at a place you call home for two years. I connected to this sentiment because there are important parts of my identity for which I do not have an outlet and go to lengths to feed. This year, the Nicholas School participated in the Durham PRIDE parade. DICE was excited to sponsor and participate in the event. Students, staff and faculty got together to create signs and marched alongside other people celebrating PRIDE. The march was electrifying and it showed me one way DICE could further be an ally to LGBTQIA+ communities.