Being the only black female student in a graduate program is rather tiring. I felt as if I was the speaker of all things black. White individuals sought after my opinion constantly on black teens being murdered by police and recent Beyoncé video releases. After a few months, I realized that the questions were not coming from a place of racism or tokenizing, it came from a genuine place of wanting to know my thoughts. I found that I had a powerful presence and it was recognized. I had these powers to make people want to listen, to care, and to believe me. My powers were not shown through verbose disputes or loud antics; they were felt by my choice of words and my passion.
At my foundation year internship, I was the first and only black woman to intern there. I was very used to adapting to my surroundings; being in a room full of white women talking about sexual assault was not new to me. This place embraced me coming into my ownership of my blackness. I was encouraged to explore my feelings of frustration from classroom conversation or the lack of representation I saw from black women in statistics that the agency promoted. This place allowed me to go through the ugly stages and set a solid foundation for the love of my melanin. So I knew that I had to be picky when it came to picking my concentration year placement.
I searched for a few months and had gone on plenty of interviews but none seemed to have made an impact on me. Until I interviewed at The Center for Trauma and Resilience. I sat in a room with an orange sofa across from a Latina with an apparent, beautiful accent and black woman with a fantastic Afro—I was home. The black woman, Cathy, would be my supervisor and throughout the interview she was excited and expressive, that was sort of confusing to me. But I enjoyed it. I felt as if she would challenge me and I needed to be challenged.
The thing about CTR is there is a familial element that comes from years of working together, trusting one another, and believing in the mission. Walking through the old Victorian house, you hear thunderous dialogue and laughing in Spanish from different countries, you see pictures of family weekends, and you smell someone cooking in the kitchen. I wanted to be a part of the hubbub because there was an essence about this agency, a feeling you don’t get in other places.
Now, as I write this at the end of my final week of graduate school and I reflect on my year, I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to intern at CTR. I had experiences that other agencies would not have provided me. I had conversations that made me look deep into myself and what I represent. Seeing women of color in their element was inspiring for me on my journey into being a black, female social worker. I learned to love myself in more ways than the regular self-care lesson we had in class. I found my boundaries and how to say no. I discovered that friendship and love are necessary to grow. And what I learned most at The Center for Trauma and Resilience is that there is no need to be scared of the super powers that I hold—I will one day make magic.