I learned to trust black women at Tuskegee University, not to be confused with the Institute, as the old heads would point out upon hearing that.
The paradigm shift that we now lovingly acknowledge as Black Girl Magic is nothing new to me because of the acts of support and sisterhood I experienced as a confused, sometimes awkwardly evolving young woman on TU’s campus. The very first person I met—while I was engaging in the first of at least three attempts at becoming officially registered as a TU student by waiting in one of our famously long and frustrating registration lines (yeah, like the shit you see on TV)—was a fellow black woman.
The first thing she did as we stood together in line to wait (just to be told we were either in the wrong line or that we didn’t have everything we needed to get the coveted red stamp—real old-head shit) was to share with me everything her older, recently graduated sister told her in order to survive on the campus. Things like which professors to avoid, how to make sure you had no class from 12 to 1 p.m. so you could be present for the daily yard activities and how to make the most of homecoming. I listened and I automatically believed her despite the fact that she really didn’t know anything from firsthand experience. I just knew, deep down inside, she wanted me to be great, and I faithfully followed her advice into a stellar HBCU experience.
My confidence in my sisters was deepened by things like me happily sitting for my roommate to put a relaxer in my hair in our dorm room in Rockefeller Hall (my hair didn’t fall out [insert sunglasses face emoji]), followed by blond highlights a few weeks later (it all fell out [insert side-eye emoji]). Yeah, I went back to her to cut it after it fell out. I told you I learned to trust black women while at Tuskegee.
I didn’t think twice about piling into a Hyundai Accent with FIVE of my girlfriends to drive back from the TU-vs.-Morehouse festivities in the middle of the night because TRUST, yo.
I knew I’d found my first sister circle (which happens to be intact today) when I experienced a heartbreak at the hands (and wandering penis) of my boyfriend and my girls all showed up at my place in the West Commons (RIP) ready to, ahem, have a discussion with the young brotha and his, ahem, companion on my behalf. I knew I was safe with them when they allowed me to go through the motions of trying to regain his attention but told me to chill if I was going too far. I knew I had found my tribe when one of them pointed out the center of my heartbreak’s weight gain TO HIS FACE in the nicest, nastiest way years later at homecoming.
That quaint campus located in Macon County, Ala., served as the incubator of my understanding that black women know shit and we should all listen to them (us). That when given the chance, a black woman is worthy of being the boss. That when we are allowed to commune and build with each other, we create, facilitate and animate things that matter to the world.
I love Tuskegee University for the standard reasons you love an HBCU experience, but I love AND respect my time at TU because of the methods the institution used with students that made it simple to build with other black women by way of same-gender dorms and black female professors and support staff.
I love my alma mater for my firsthand encounter with “I am not my sister’s keeper … I am my sister.”
Because, you know … TRUST.
Simone Jones is a freelance writer, editor-in-chief of the Shy Peacock, data nerd at African Ancestry and facilitator of the “When We Journal, We Journal Hard” community journal workshop. Follow her on Instagram.