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$10,000 Champion of Pride Scholarship

Is there a shortage of Black lesbian scholarly representation in this country or is it just me?

Scholarship for far too long has belonged to the most privileged in this country. This is certainly not due to the lack of willing participants. Black lesbian women who often experience and are likely to overcome arduous life circumstances, often find that we do not see viable reflections of

ourselves in higher education. This is a broad statement and is not intended to be monolithic. So, I’ll speak for myself. To this day, I have never had a Black lesbian teacher, or even an openly queer teacher to say the least. Why is that? And again, I ask, is there a shortage of Black lesbian scholarly representation in America?

I don’t know and that is not what this article is about. I was asked to share with you a response to this question: What does scholarship mean to me?

It means I have an opportunity that was not easily afforded to my mother, father, or grandmother. As a first-generation college student, I am proud of the accomplishments of the aforementioned family members, but, although they, too, are Black, they are not queer or trans. I have had unique experiences that even those closest to me can not relate to. When you see me

though, I want you to see the reflection of the resilient Black women who raised me to be resilient. I did not follow the paths that they had set for me, I am sure, and I have always been a bit rebellious, so I didn’t make it easy for them to raise me either. (Insert Leo zodiac sign with Middle Child Syndrome here.) However, by learning as much as I can and aspiring to go as far

as I can in my academic and professional career, I know that I make all of their sacrifices more than worth it.

Beyond that, scholarship, for me, is competition. And I slay all day. I go towards each assignment with the knowledge that I can do all things through the divine power that is within me. I am not overwhelmed by assignments and for me, no topic is impossible for me to learn,

because someone before me has learned it. If they could, why can’t I? (It’s giving rebellious.) I compete against myself for a higher grade, a better standing, or a project completed before the due date. To me, this does not mean that I am better than any other student or person, it just means that I can be proud of myself for accomplishing and/or crushing my goal. I am no more or less worthy of the things I desire because of a grade or an accolade, I am merely assuredly doing my best.

Most importantly, though, scholarship is representation. I cannot count the number of times in my lifetime that I have searched Beyonce’s internet for Black lesbian scholars, politicians, and architects. Why? Because I had never met a person with a similar identity who shared similar interests. One day as I was searching for... long story short, I met my life partner of 12 years online. She is an acclaimed fine artist. I hope that past and future Black lesbians of North Carolina, from the coast to the mountains and beyond, will one day search and find reflections of themselves as young, vibrant, capable, and proud. Maybe they’ll be as lucky as I was to research people and find love.

Now, this Champion of Pride Scholarship from Charlotte Pride comes with a cute coin, but I believe I was selected because of my commitment to advocacy, showing up authentically, and loving unapologetically. However, what I will remember most about being a CLT Pride Scholarship recipient, long after the funds are attributed to educational expenses, are the faces

of the young LGBTQ+ students in the crowd at the parade. Many of us locked eyes, cheered together and saw each other. If only for a moment, our backgrounds, sexuality, gender identities, and skin colors, became irrelevant. If only for a moment, we saw the future in each other's eyes. I thought to myself, “This is what solidarity looks like.” We were all LGBTQ+ scholars with our futures possible and I am sure that more than a few Black lesbians saw me and said to themselves, “Yeah, I can be that girl.”

In conclusion, I was also asked to define scholarship. So, I’ll write a poem for that.

Define Scholarship

1: a grant-in-aid to a student (as by a college or foundation)

It means Financial Aid, FAFSA, or something about taxes

But, I know you get a refund

And you get to spend it how you want

It means necessities

Dignity, integrity, and the freedom to focus

on school

Grant means you don’t have to pay it back

Unless life for you is inequitable

And circumstances you never expected to arise

Like trying to decide if you gonna eat, or starve, or study

2: the character, qualities, activity, or attainments of a scholar : LEARNING

It means you know better

Know more and grow

Active on your campus and in your community

Organizing all the while

It means you teach something

To someone else

Watering seeds like biology

That you take each accolade

And dedicate it to your ancestors

Honesty and devotion

When the world sleeps

You write an article and a poem

Read a chapter and prepare for the assignments due

By midnight

Savoring each sip of café

As if excellence was served

con leche y azúcar

Know what you know

And can’t nobody take it from you

Degrees of all you are

But your soul and your spirit free

Make it count

3: a fund of knowledge and learning


Ain’t alone

Not the only one

For your sister

For your grandmother

For your queer and trans siblings

For you

By you

But support

A community

A safe space

An equitable space

A place where they want to hear you

Where your words are currency

And your thoughts be gold

And your love for people be studied by people who study people

And that’s knowledge and learning

And that’s scholarship

To define scholarship

One must first forget everything one has known

Taught by a system that dares you to exist

And thrive in the face of naysayers

And seek resources and refuge among allies

One must study the ways of the world and the histories of those who came before

And most importantly know thyself

Dream as if the alarm will sound soon

For an 8 o’clock on-campus class

Where the teacher reads slowly from the PowerPoint

But I suggest you take your classes online

Or however you so chose

The only way to truly define scholarship is with you


How do you define scholarship?

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