Graduation came May 6, 2016 for the Religious Studies students. It has been a wonderful ride. Coming out of high school in 1998, I had been accepted to the business school of the University of Southern California, the veterinarian school of the University of Georgia and I was highly recruited from every Ivy League school in the United States, including Harvard, Yale and Princeton as well as tech schools like MIT and GaTech. I still have a large picture frame on the wall in my house will the recruitment and acceptance letters. Coming from an African American family with a strong cohort of males, a father, 3 brothers, 2 living grandfathers, 5 uncles and over 15 male first cousins, I would be the second to eventually graduate with a Bachelors degree, the first being my oldest brother, a basketball star. The advice I was given from my family members when choosing a university was to choose whatever made me feel most comfortable and above all things, I better come back “Black.” I appreciated all the attention coming from the schools, I averaged 7 recruitment letters every day the mail came during my junior and senior years of high school. There is a long story behind choosing Georgia State University over the others but I’ll give the short version.
- I originally came from Los Angeles and I was use to diversity, Georgia State reminded me of L.A. When I moved to Georgia I attended Redan High School where the demographics were 99.9% African American. Though I appreciated and enjoyed the experience, I recognized the similarities of the conversations and lack of awareness of other faiths and cultural holidays. Diversity was a major concern in choosing a University.
2. I had a high school sweetheart that had already made the decision to attend Spelman College and I wanted to be close 🙂
3. I was deeply involved and loved the African American Muslim community in Atlanta. At one point I was co-president of the youth group at the Atlanta Masjid and enjoyed the large number of African American Muslims.
4. Lastly, and what I hesitate to say but I know was the tipping of the scale for my young mind, the color of the school. I was a young African American male that was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, for those that do not know, that means I’m color coded. I never was involved in gangs, the neighborhood kids that I grew up around knew that I was Muslim and that was a form of protection in the African American community. But the vast majority of Black and Hispanic males that I knew around my neighborhood were gang members. I grew up in Blue neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, Black and Hispanic males have heightened awareness of the colors that we wear and look for all the details of streets and neighborhoods that we are entering to know if what we are wearing is going to draw unwanted attention from gang members of opposite colors. Believe me, my brothers and I had plenty of confrontations when we moved to new neighborhoods, but once they knew we were Muslim, we didn’t have problems after that. I moved to Georgia when I was in the 10th grade, so by the time I graduated high school, much of Los Angeles color codes were already apart of who I was. I felt more comfortable wearing all colors except red, and blue was always my favorite color.
Even though I was recruited from the top schools in the country, because the decision was totally up to me, the only schools that really had a chance were the ones with blue colors. If given the same choice today, I know I would definitely have weighed my options based on criteria that really matters (not to say color doesn’t, Tiger Woods wears red on Sunday golf tournaments), but I’m not sure if I would have made another decision. Georgia State has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life and I really love the school and all the opportunities that have come through attending. I also am not one to flock to the groups that everyone says is the best, I tend to choose a team that works best for me and make it the best. For example, in sports, when everyone said I should play for a well known traveling basketball team, I chose to play for a coach I knew and recruited some good players that I knew from around the city. In 2 state tournaments, we knocked the team out that people had suggested I should have played for. After that, many of the top players wanted to play for our team. That is how I have always looked at myself and what I’d like to do for Georgia State.
So now that school is finished, I am planning to use the skills that I have learned to start a nonprofit film production organization that serves faith-based schools. I am currently in the process of writing grants to secure funding and in the meantime filming documentaries and training my oldest daughter how to renovate and sell houses. I promised my kids that once each reaches the 9th grade I would purchase them a house that needed a great deal of renovation work in order for them to go through each step until completion. I oldest reached the 9th grade and with the help of my siblings, we bought her a house at the end of March 2016. I’m just happy that I didn’t have to adjust my plans or renege on my promise. I will keep everyone updated on how it all goes. The sky is not the limit!