stood near a podium in the middle of a very tiny church
in St Helena South Carolina. Not much wider than a doghouse,
it stood with 5 benches, a bible and a lamp. It smelled
of old garments and burning candles, but it gave me a feeling
of joy because I knew that at this moment I was learning
a lot and seeing with my own eyes what the African and African
American culture was all about.
Here, on a former plantation on St. Helena Island, off the
coast of South Carolina is where the African American College
tour began that I participated in. The Teen Lift Tour of
2004, which was sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Brooklyn Alumnae Chapter, took place on Sunday February
15th - 19th. The teen lift program was to encourage students
who are applying for college to think of applying to historically
black colleges. Juniors and Seniors of Brooklyn and Queens
New York had a chance to visit North Carolina Central University,
Shaw University, Savannah State University, Fort Valley
University and Florida A&M University.
Witnessing a place where my own ancestors would secretly
pray for life to get easier and for them to belong. It was
also a place where slave owners used to watch over them
and still control their minds by controlling what was being
said in the church. "When they took shackles off of
there feet they put shackles on their minds," was the
way Ms. Seretha M. Tuttle- the tour guide, described it.
Teen lifters also got a chance to visit Penn State Gullah
Island- St Helena Island. Penn State was started in 1862
and was one of the first schools for freed slaves. It taught
African American students how to become teachers, blacksmiths,
carpenters, and how to gain auto-mechanic skills. Inside
there were pictures of slaves and their children. There
were monuments of a grass collection plate and a corn shuck
doormat, made by some of the students. At Penn State we
met Mr. Robert Middleton, who was a student of Penn State
This had a profound effect on me because it was something
I had never experienced and it made me feel closer to my
ancestors than ever before. The pictures of the slaves on
the cotton fields and the slave families were depressing
to me because I knew they were unhappy working there. But
it made me realize that I have to work hard for whatever
I want and to always have faith in myself. Just like how
my ancestors had faith that in years to come the world would
be equal, which has been happening for about 30 years.
Penn State was also a retreat, training and planning site
for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian
leadership Conference. Across the street from the school
stood Dr Martin Luther King's house where he wrote the ‘I
Have a Dream’ speech. “It's shocking, unbelievable,
your heart stops," said Noelle Flores of Queens, one
of the teen lifters as she walked onto the damp soil of
the plantation, indulging in her surroundings and seeing
such a site with her own eyes. The weather was cold and
cloudy, relating to way the place made us feel.
But the trip didn't stop there. The white snow on the grass
of the campus made the huge campus of NCCU beautiful. It
was filled with green trees and tall buildings. Teen lifters
met Mr. Micheal Bailey, the Assistant Director of the campus.
He talked about the school; giving the teen lifters a little
inspiration through experiences he had himself at the time
he was applying to colleges. He also gave us advice about
how to take advantage of our educational opportunities when
we get there. "It is important to take advantage of
classes that teach you how to study, work on computers,
and you should also get involved with extracurricular activities
when you get to college." said Mr. Bailey.
A number of activities provided for the students on the
campus are a Museum, Student Union, Bowling Alley, Book
Store, Game Room, and Horseback Riding. There's a basketball
team and the Football team among other sports teams on the
Some big events that take place on campus are Fashion shows
and Step shows. Carl Jackson, one of the tour guides, gave
us a few suggestions to take time management classes as
a freshman on campus so that we can learn how to manage
school, work, and friends. We learned that in order to graduate
from the school you have to have 120 community service credits,
doing at least 15hrs a semester.
As I stepped onto the campus of the second college we visited,
Shaw University in Raleigh Georgia, the first thing I noticed
was the church in the middle of the campus. It was said
that it is mandatory for freshmen to go to church. Shaw
University, a very small campus, is the oldest black college
in the south. This was very different from the colleges
in New York City because in NYC the school populations are
very high and the college campuses are big with no churches
in the middle.
On Tuesday February 17th we visited Savannah State University,
which, is a beautiful campus in Savannah, Georgia. What
made the campus beautiful was the huge football field they
had and design of Styrofoam cups outlining the name of the
college. We had a chance to eat in the cafeteria with SVU
students experiencing the college life, "college food
and college people." Savannah State has a round-shaped
library building with a variety of works of African literature
where professors from all over the United States go to read.
relax our minds, were welcomed at the home of the parents
of one of the sorority sisters, Mrs. Shari Day Phillips.
There, we ate dinner and Mr. and Mrs. Day shared the experiences
they had at Savannah State University when they attended
as students. They also encouraged us to never give up and
to take advantage of all the educational opportunities that
are being offered to us because they want to see us succeed.
The weather was beautiful as we stepped on the campus of
Florida A&M University on Wednesday February 18th. The
campus was stunning and the students seemed friendly and
alive. It was a very sunny day so it made everything seem
perfect. We ate in the cafeteria with some students that
attended the university.
FAMU caught the attention of many teen lifters the most,
because it seemed so live. Students were in there cars jamming
to music as they drove out of the parking lots. Our tour
guide Morgan Long mentioned some of the fun events that
happen on campus. B out day is a day where there’s
music, food, and giveaways and there’s Gospel Extravaganza
where there's singing and dancing. Relay for Life is where
students run for community service to raise money for a
cure for cancer. Some fun things mentioned to us are free
hip-hop aerobics, yoga, and women's night.
In the library there's a media center and a T.V station.
The class sizes in the school are from 18-20. Some advice
given by the tour guide Ms. Long was to, "get involved
with the career center if you attend the college because
it helps you develop your resume, and helps you get a job
While on campus we visited the Black Archives Research Center/
I was disappointed as the trip came to an end but still
grateful that I made the journey because I learned a lot
about my African culture while meeting new people and visiting
some of the top colleges in the United States of America.
My parents have always told me that you don’t know
where you’re going unless you know where you’ve
been. I know it’s an old saying but knowing about
your past can help you make important decisions about your
present and future. I would never take back this wonderful
experience and I encourage teenagers to visit some of the
sites we've visited so that they could obtain information
that is not being given to us in textbooks. What we need
to do is enlighten our minds because our mind is something
no one can ever take away from us.