If someone would’ve told me at 17 years old that I’d one day be in a doctoral program and working in a field that changes people for the better, I would have laughed in disbelief. Yet, here I am: 75% finished with my first year in my doctoral program! The journey is one that is challenging in a myriad of ways: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and most definitely intellectually.
In my short time in the program, I’ve been challenged to ask the tough questions about the field and how I engage with it on a daily basis. There are moments when I’m fuming with anger. For example, when learning about how our field doublespeak when it comes to conversations about equity. There are times when I am happy to occupy spaces where we can even have disagreement compared to other industries. Having an understanding about this social institution and the level of politics that flow throughout the “beast” is important as I continue to find ways to “activate my activism” in this system.
I’ve had bouts of impostor syndrome that still continue to creep up every now and then. Impostor syndrome is real! Luckily, my faculty member reassured me that I earned my spot in my program. They asked a poignant question that resonates to this day. “How are you an impostor in a system that wasn’t created with you in mind to begin with?” Talk about comforting. I was allowed to be myself and I didn’t need to speak “academe” or “scholarly” 24/7. I can bring my experiences into the classroom (personal and professional). This will push the conversation forward and even bring challenge to my cohort when needed.
The privileged space that I occupy by being a first generation, Black male doctoral student is not lost on me. Across all fields, there are only 2-5% Black males in doctoral programs (Harper, 2015). There’s a sense of duty that overcomes my spirit. I know that I must be responsible during/after this process because this is a rare feat for those that share similar identities. At the end of this journey, I will have a seat at tables that, traditionally, people of color never have the opportunity to occupy. I will be an advocate for those who face injustice on a daily basis inside and outside of higher education.
This doctorate is more than me. It’s for those that have traditionally felt silenced. This doctorate is for the next generation of leaders of color. This doctorate is for young men and women of color who don’t come from the best of situations but still persevere. This is my activism.
This post is part of our #SADocsofColor series for March. The journey towards obtaining a doctorate degree is