Sarah McCune ’12
was 13 years old when I noticed the teachers give me
a harsh look as I went to ask Mrs. Irvin a question. I
asked her, “Mrs. Irvin, why do they look at us that
way?” Her response is one I have never forgotten,
“Because I’m a big black woman and you are a little
white girl and the two of us just don’t go together!” Mrs.
Irvin and I remain in close contact today and she is one of
my biggest supporters.
Up until that moment, I was not consciously aware of the
differences in our skin colors. I was raised on St. Simons
Island, Ga., in a color blind home, but her answer made me
begin to think critically about skin color and race relations.
Not too long afterward, she told me that I found myself
being bullied by a group of African-American girls because
I was winning in a game of basketball; they did not think a
girl like me should be a basketball player. It only made me
play harder.
My parents moved me to Birmingham for better
schools and my freshman year of high school I began to
dig deeper into the history of race. My new high school
was less diverse than in Georgia, but I met students from
Indian immigrant families. I found my voice in poetry
and began to keep written record of my engagement with
the world. Two weeks before my sophomore year of high
school, I moved to Bozeman, Mont. I missed seeing and
engaging with individuals of different cultural backgrounds.
The state was not diverse, and I found myself craving
experiential cultural enrichment. After high school, I
wanted a liberal arts college that would encourage me to
think critically and be a positive agent for change the world.
BSC gave me that and so much more. In my four years at
the college, I explored many facets of civil and human rights
both in and out of the classroom. Courses like Protest
Literature, Introduction to Human Rights, International
Fiction, Poetry Workshops, and Performance Studies
taught me about African and African-American literature,
the similarities between South African apartheid and the
Birmingham civil rights movement, how to tell stories
through poetry, and how race is ritualized and embodied in
everyday life.
I tutored a young girl named Kaliyah at Woodow Wilson
Elementary, published a book of poetry by children from
NorthStar and Urban Kids, and even coached soccer.
Seeing the economic, educational, and social injustices
of their lives made me all the more determined to use my
educational privilege to help others. I saw the potential
for systemic changes when I witnessed the first all-female
African-American debate team qualify for nationals because
of programs like SpeakFirst. Community members and
leaders in Birmingham are embodying positive change.
Today, I am studying at the Pacific School of Religion, and
as we discuss the role of race and religion, Birmingham
38 / ’southern
Aurelien Forget
Freshman economics major
Hometown: L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France
“Diversity to me refers to all the ways in which people are
different. We must try to understand each other, be open-minded
enough to learn about others with different backgrounds, become
more tolerant toward each other, and think more openly about
the world and its issues.”
Alumni reflections
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