As a writer “my job is to notice” the work provided to me by the professor, thoroughly read over articles and books from class, and deeply reflect about the work in order to fully comprehend and make connections to the course learning outcome. The readings that I read over the semester, “Fortune’s The Manumission Requiem Bones” by Marilyn Nelson, “Zulus” by Percival Everett and “A Political History of America’s Black Reparations Movement” by Darity and Mullen were all works that I was able to relate to in terms of the character’s growth or finally realizing their true self.
In the beginning of the semester, I did not speak up in class often because of my shyness. Speaking in large groups makes me nervous because all eyes are focused on me. This puts more pressure on me and sometimes makes me forget my thoughts. During discussions, I found it difficult to rephrase someone else’s thought that I was going to say. For instance, when talking about the book, “Fortune’s The Manumission Requiem Bones”, we discussed the quote “Fortune was born; he died” (Nelson, 13). Many of my classmates thought that even though the doctor did many procedures on Fortune’s body he could not take away his identity from him. I agreed with this but did not want to repeat what anybody had already said. Sometimes I would have a good thought in my head and try to phrase it in a way that makes sense, but by the time I do this someone else already spoke up on it. This has been the main issue for me throughout the semester. In the book, “Zulus”, it states, “you will be treated as the thing you are” (Everett, 104). Achitophel was only seen as a fat person, which made her view herself as an ugly person, lowering her self-esteem. Reading books like this made me realize that people will only view me as a person that does not speak up in class and nothing else. Once I started to realize this it made me question how I viewed myself as a person. I did not want to end off the semester without at least seeking other ways to participate in class discussions.
It took a while for me to speak up, but I can say that I’ve grown from the first day of class. I started being more comfortable with my classmates once I got familiar with their faces. Most people that I worked with in groups, I had already worked with before, so it was easier for me to talk to them. For instance, in my previous group, I was familiar with seeing Tommy, Dineen and Rebecca faces because I had already worked with them in small groups. I spoke up on evidence that could be used in the essay and made connections to the prompt and book. Also, this group acknowledged my thoughts which I appreciated because other groups that I were in made it difficult for me to speak up at times. Sometimes I just felt like my points were not worthy enough to put into the essays. The few times I did speak up, I felt like my ideas were disregarded as well. Similar to Achitophel, I started to feel unworthy and unimportant. However, throughout all of this I noticed that I worked better in small groups because there is less pressure on me and less faces watching me as I speak.
In the article, “A Political History of America’s Black Reparations Movement”, it states, “America must acknowledge its roots in the slavery empire, apologize for it . . . and work on some plan to compensate” (Darity and Mullen, 19). Similar to how Americans must understand the struggle of blacks and help them, it is important that I too understand my struggle of speaking up. However, it is my job to notice this behavior and “and work on some plan” (Darity and Mullen, 19) to overcome this challenge or grow as an individual. I can definitely say that I learned a lot as a reader and gained awareness of my true self as I slowly began to be comfortable and confident in speaking up. With that being said, it is essential that Geneseo students practice the skill to reflect on their changes in order to gain awareness and learn about themselves.
Nelson, Marilyn. Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. ISBN: 9781932425123
Everett, Percival. Zulus. ISBN: 9780932966971
Dye, Keith A. “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century by William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen.” Journal of Southern History, vol. 87, no. 4, 2021, pp. 759–761., https://doi.org/10.1353/soh.2021.0134.