Breaking Down Those Barriers

“Most people of color… don’t see the value in staying.”

Editing by David M. Sula of Adelmar Entertainment.

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Transcript for Breaking Down Those Barriers

Every day that I go to work, I feel like I belong here. When I go home, I have neighbors. I have people that, you know, look forward to seeing me on a day to day basis. I have friends. I have a sense of purpose, so in that respect, yes, I feel comfortable being here. I have a sense of belonging that this is my community. In terms of the work that I do currently and having a sense of belonging, I work with an organization now called the Northwest Indiana African American Alliance. We meet on a monthly basis, we’re at the point now where we’re trying to organize because we’d like to be a voice for African Americans in the community who are experiencing things, who really don’t understand the avenues or have the connections to be able to voice their concerns. And I think being able to provide a voice for people, whether it’s on a campus or whether it’s in the community, I think it’s very important going forward. And we have that in place.

I guess I would just like to see not only more services for people of color, African Americans come to Valparaiso, what I’d like to see is the community do a better job of making people of color who are students here feel comfortable with residing here. What I mean by that is most people of color that I’ve talked to in the last couple of years at the university, they don’t see the value in staying in Valparaiso, making a home here, making a family here. Their experiences have been described as so negative and so frustrating that after four years of being at this university, they just want to get out of here. And they don’t want to stay here anymore. And I think there are opportunities available for people, whether it be law enforcement, service-oriented jobs, accounting, law firms, there’s plenty of opportunities here for people of color, it’s just people of color don’t feel welcomed here, and they don’t want to stay.

I stayed in Valparaiso because the end of my senior year, my parents moved to Arizona. I did not want to live at home anymore, so at that point I realized I was going to get a job, I was going to get my own apartment, and I was going to make my own way. So I was comfortable here. I had a relationship, had friends here, so I had a life, I had a social life, and then I still had a connection with people in Chicago because it’s only forty five minutes away. So I knew if I wanted a taste of that, then I could I could get it, you know, soon. I like the peace and quiet of Valpo.

One thing in particular that stood out, a group of us in our neighborhood decided we were going to have block parties because we really didn’t know the people that we lived with. So my wife and two other ladies got together and did a lot of the planning, and it was really a good experience because you were able to meet your neighbors and talk with them and break down any barriers that went on, home to home. And I didn’t feel like a lot of that was done because people wanted to know the black person on the block. I felt like people just wanted to know me as a resident of Valparaiso who lives on Bond Avenue. You know, they wanted to get to know me, they wanted to understand what I was about because they would see me day to day and they didn’t know me. It was really fun because it started at ten o’ clock and it went all the way until about one o’ clock in the morning. The end result was a bonfire and just people sitting around talking, having a good time, playing volleyball, getting to know each other, and just kind of breaking down those barriers.