“Hey, make sure you close the door behind you, because it doesn't close on its own.”
As I stood at the top of the stairs, I scoured over the newsroom filled with student journalists who I believed were writing cutting-edge stories. What I quickly realized, though, was not the vast amount of iMacs scattered around the newsroom; rather, I noticed what was missing — people who looked like me.
I was familiar with being the only Black kid in my classes in high school, but something felt different here. At the time, I wondered how a student newspaper that is held in such high regard didn't have at least one other Black person, but my nervousness about diving into the world of journalism for the first time overtook my curiosity.
I applied to The Daily Tar Heel after reading a story about the aftermath of Silent Sam's toppling, by Danielle Chemtob and María Elena Vizcaíno, in The Huffington Post. It was only my second day on campus, but I could feel a sense of excitement through the people they interviewed when I read their story.
I saw that Danielle and María both worked at the DTH, and I decided in that moment that if I wanted to write stories that conveyed that same type of emotion, I wanted to be around some of the best writers.
As a transfer student from North Carolina Central University, I was quite reserved when I stepped on campus my sophomore year, but I was excited to learn and grow as a writer. When I joined as a staff writer, I raved about all the types of stories I would get to write about on the University Desk. Still, when I stepped foot in the office, my excitement quickly diminished as I sat quietly beside my editor while engaging in lackluster small talk with other writers.
As these feelings carried on, I believed they’d go away if I continued to write better stories, in hopes of getting on the list of the top five stories from my desk and earning recognition from fellow staffers that could help spark interesting conversations or make new friends.
For every friend I didn't make at the DTH, I made through the stories I wrote. The DTH pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and talk to students I may have never met because I needed student sources, and I will forever be grateful for that.
What started as mere Instagram DMs to potential Miss UNC candidates later flourished into me walking into Davis Library and asking every student studying for midterms if they'd like to talk about the Spider-Man flash mob that had taken place just moments before.
To this day, some of the people I initially interviewed for a story have become some of my closest friends at the University.
With the support from my editors, Myah Ward, Maeve Sheehey and Ramishah Maruf, I wrote hilarious stories about students running all throughout campus looking for Barack and Sasha Obama because there was a rumor she was touring the journalism school, and getting invited to a frat party during a pandemic thanks to a $1.95 hand sanitizer from Bath & Body Works.
In the three years I’ve been with the DTH, I’ve met some of my best friends that I will stay connected with forever, but the two individuals that I’d say are my people are Misha and Paige. They are the strongest and most kindhearted women I have ever met, and I am grateful to call them my friends. From pub subs on the beach in Florida to traveling to Cosmic Island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, we have shared memories I’ll never forget.
There were some hard days at the DTH where I felt like I lost my sense of belonging, drowning in a sea of words, and they were there to pull me out. Reassuring me that my Blackness allowed me to bring a unique perspective to my stories based on my lived experiences, I continued to find ways to highlight students from underrepresented communities.
Blackness is not going anywhere. My Blackness is always right here with me, around me, about me — and it will rise when I enter a new office.
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