A very recent accomplishment that occurred in my life was me completing and defending my honors thesis. I had no idea that I would choose to apply to the honors program under communication and do a research thesis on a topic that I was curious about for my senior year, but I did. I’ve attached the 62 page thesis (super long) below, but before I get to that I wanted to provide context as to what truly inspired me to develop a year long focus on the racial and ethnic labels among people of African descent.
In March of 2014 I went on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage to the Southern United States and spent 8 days on a bus with 39 people traveling through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. The route was intentionally set to provide the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the iconic moments and places where terrifying and courageous acts of humanity occurred. Prior to the pilgrimage I had anticipated that the journey would provide more insight and respect to voting rights as I had not been an “active” citizen in caring about politics. I had no idea that the journey would instead provide me with a stronger and deeper connection to my American identity. An identity that didn’t just talk about our forefathers and patriotism in a way that still doesn’t represent people who look like me or others who are not white. I had an eagerness and anxiety about leaving America and moving to Ethiopia, a nation that I could blend into. My understanding of America was blurry and complex and had so many layers that I couldn’t see which story to identify with. After the pilgrimage, I understood the American component to my label as Ethiopian-American. But I was curious as to how other black people felt. There are these words that represent our histories, cultures as well as our complexion. I wanted to interview black college students to know what those stories were and what these words meant to those individuals.
I applied to the honors program in the communication department and knew that I wanted to create an honors thesis that looked at the labels that existed for black people and how they chose which labels they employed. I am absolutely excited to share this and look forward to responses, feedback, and insights that you all may have to share. I know that the journey doesn’t stop here for me, but for now this is where I find myself.