Senior Retrospective: Angel Needham-Giles

Confusion. This most accurately describes what I felt when I opened an email requesting that I consider penning a retrospective for the Senior issue of The Misc.

Why me? Whose radar was I on? Who told these people I had time to write this?

After all, I do have finals to complete. There’s also this little thing known as Commencement and I kinda wanna walk across the stage this time around.

While most people may have felt honored or even indifferent, for me this exercise felt as though it were mandatory.

While I certainly do not consider myself the Black Folks’ Spokesperson of Vassar College, I felt that I would be doing myself and the Vassar Community a grand disservice by allowing the narrative of a prominent Black woman to be excluded from our lovely senior reflection feature.

Let’s face it—people love me and I love people. Who wouldn’t want to read me ramble on about the trials and triumphs that myself and my peers have encountered throughout our last four years?

You’re still reading this so I’m assuming you don’t mind my rambling.

I’ll start by making a claim that has absolutely no grounding in any real statistical anything but still makes total sense in my head: Freshman Orientation was probably the most boring week of our collective Vassar lives.

Being corralled from panel to panel in the gross Poughkeepsie humidity, forced to hang out with Fellow groups that we may or may not have meshed with. With that said, I think that there is power in community building that arises out of shared unhappiness or otherness – or something close to it.

Initially, the community that I was eagerly welcomed into was one constructed by upperclassmen of color within my first few days at Vassar. This warmth and interest in who I was demonstrated by these amazing men and women meant the world to this then 17-year old Black & Creole girl from the SouthSide of Chicago.

As the year progressed, I grew to love and connect with these Black, Brown and Yellow faces in ways that many would read as cliche and story-book. Though I certainly encountered my fair share of conflict,  I can say without hesitation that these moments were essential to my college experience and I became a better me as a result of them.

As an upperclassman I placed much of my energy into emulating the affection and kindness extended to me by my predecessors. Even my academic work in Sociology and Africana Studies began to center around the love, inclusion, and presence of narratives of people that looked like me.

This has lead to the growth of many relationships with peers, faculty and administrators that I could never have fathomed fostering in a few short years.

Even my postgraduate career plans are inherently linked to the ways that I invested my time at Vassar. As a residence hall director and diversity programming coordinator, I can only hope to embody the best of those folks and experiences at Vassar that led me to this field.

Vassar has slowly grown into a space that I feel some claim to. While I would never in a million years call VC home, I’d be lying to myself and all of you if I said that I have not found a community here that I will miss dearly.

To everyone who has affected my life at Vassar—educators, friends, my first love, mentors,  I thank each and every one of you sincerely. Because of the love and care of the family that I created here at Vassar and the family that raised me, I have grown into a woman that I believe many of you love, admire and whose company you just genuinely enjoy. More importantly, I am becoming a woman that I love and treasure. A woman whose legacy has impacted Vassar as much as Vassar’s legacy has impacted her.

 

—Angel Needham-Giles is the fabulous, fierce & fancy outgoing Chair of the Council of Black Seniors.

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