Earlier this week we sat down with Reuben Pierre-Louis, a senior at Neag’s School of Education and member of the Schola2rs House Learning Community. Reuben will continue his education at UConn after graduation, working to earn a Master's degree in Special Education. We had a conversation around diversity, the importance of representation, and the necessity of spaces like Schola2rs House.
“Diversity, and often a lack of diversity, has on a huge role on my professional experiences. In the places where I work, teach, and even live, I am usually one of the only Black males and sometimes the only African American. In my program at UConn, I am one of just a few black men, if not the only one. Sometimes people of color get offended when they have the weight to speak for their whole race, but I do not mind. If I do not speak, who will? Everyone would agree that generalizing people is “bad” but people still do it every day, its human nature. In “white spaces” I feel like an ambassador to my race, and for that, I have to carry myself in a certain way to contradict the negative perception that has been cultivated in the media and perpetuated through generalizations and stereotypes. I will continue to speak for my people because there needs to be a counter narrative.”
“Diversity is not just limited to race, culture is often a measure of diversity that is ignored. I have pride for my Haitian culture. For some reason in America, we are aware of the different cultures attributed to white people - Italians, Germans, Russians, etc. - but with Black people we don’t see anything but color. I think it is important for people of color to embrace our own cultures and reject the narrative that erases this diversity, but at the same time we have to come together. When we (Black people) come together, we may have different cultures and backgrounds but we all have one thing in common, we are aware of the reality that United States is not really united with people with darker skin. With the prison to school pipeline, false media perceptions, a history of racial inequality, we continue to be persecuted. There needs to be something to combat this beast. I think Schola2rs House is trying to do that. In Schola2rs House, I learned how people that have similar experiences have to stick together.”
“I wish I had a Schola2rs House when I first started college. I remember when I got here I just wanted to fit in - everybody wants to fit in. Being outwardly different made that difficult. I didn’t feel like I had a space here as a black intellectual. I wasn’t a Black athlete so I didn't really feel like there was a community to support me. Schola2rs house provided that space of social and emotional support. That is really one of the most important aspects for me, that social support network that can help us navigate UConn more successfully. Schola2rs House is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. I think it’s important that we reflect on the opposition to this learning community. It is okay for asian students, or hispanic students, or woman engineers to come together but once Black folks want to come together and do something positive there is this “woah, woah, slow down there” response. I think we need to ask ourselves if we are truly dedicated to diversity and inclusion, or are we just looking to reproduce an image of diversity based on empty statistics.”