Andover Through Black Voices

Suhaila Cotton ’24: What do you think about how Blackness is perceived socially on campus?

On campus, and everywhere in America, Blackness is seen as something “cool,” or almost like a trend. This is something that happens everywhere in America, but I notice it especially at Andover. I see our customs and culture appropriated a lot, through the way people talk, try to dress, or even what music they listen to, or what music they deem to be “cool” during certain conversations with their peers. We recently had an event in which a few Black female alumni spoke, and it was really eye-opening to me. They were explaining how historically, Lower Right was where students of color sat when they were attending Andover, some time in the ’80s. If we look at who sits in Lower Right now, it is really more the Upperclassmen. It is seen as the cool section of Paresky Commons. I just find that change interesting — the fact that what was once a place of color is now being treated as a reserved spot for upperclassmen. 

Mayumi Kawano ’25: What are your reflections on being a Black biracial student at Andover?

Being biracial on this campus and having gone to a predominantly white middle school as well, there weren’t many people who looked like me. So being that this is a PWI [predominantly white institution], it is good that the academy is admitting more POC [people of color], and also I am thankful for other students that identify as POC for creating spaces where I feel comfortable being a Black biracial person, being surrounded by people that look like me, and sharing the same experiences as me. Being Black on this campus is something that I take a lot of pride in, and it is hard sometimes, especially when Blackness is often portrayed in the media as something that is not good or not celebrated. It is important to have Black spaces and be able to uplift each other in those moments where being in the classroom as the only Black student can be uncomfortable or taxing, especially when topics of race come up and everyone is looking at you to share your experiences. Basically, I really think it is important for Black students and honestly everyone on this campus to support each other and celebrate each other because we deserve it.

Inemesit Anako ’25: What are your reflections on how Blackness plays a role in your campus life in and out of the classroom?

Coming into Andover, I was very, what some would call “whitewashed.” I wasn’t really connected with my Black culture or the impact that race plays in my life in general. Here at Andover, there are spaces and opportunities to connect with people of the same race and of similar experiences, which I really appreciate. It is an opportunity to share our thoughts with each other and bond over our similar experiences. 

In terms of how Blackness plays a role in classrooms, I feel a lot more comfortable talking to faculty that are Black like me, because I feel like at some point they too have been a Black student, whether that be in America or elsewhere, and that connection is important to me. So, definitely more Black teachers in the future would be something I would love to see.

Amanda Dominique-Santos ’25: What are your reflections on being a Black biracial student at Andover?

I used to go to a predominantly white school, and I never felt like I fit in, but at the same time in a lot of spaces that were predominantly Black, I didn’t feel like I fit in. For me, Andover is a huge improvement, because even though there are situations where I might be uncomfortable because of my ethnicity, I am still really happy that this school has places like CaMD and Black and mixed affinity groups where I feel seen and heard. However, as Andover does promote itself as an intentionally diverse campus, I do think that the school could do more in terms of Black faculty that are present in classrooms.

Jaylen Daley ’25: What are your reflections on the perception of blackness at Andover?

I think one thing to think about is always thoughts versus action. I feel like a lot of people want to be friends with Black people more as a trope, or want proximity to Blackness in a way that is uncomfortable to Black students themselves. It usually happens without consideration to the experiences of Black students and the communities and cultures that they come from off campus. 

In terms of how Blackness is received on campus, one example of Blackness being considered a trend is the misuse of Black vernacular. Freshman Year, I tried to explain how terms and phrases like “really be” and “finna” were often severely misused and extremely weird coming from people who might have grown up with people who say it, but without the culture of it, which matters. Even further, I believe the most telling thing about our student reception for Black people on campus is the reception of Black History Month. I always give a quick ‘whoop’ when it’s mentioned, and I feel like it’s very easy to celebrate or recognize other heritage days on campus. But whenever I’m in a classroom setting, especially if there’s only me and one other Black student, I always see the classroom becoming this place where everyone momentarily incorporates themselves into the brick wall of some campus building as a tumbleweed rolls by. It’s a bit uninviting to me, and a lot of non-Black (and Black) students blame the faculty-sponsored programming for it, but I don’t think that attitude would change if we spoke up for ourselves.