A Black Face in a White Space: My Four Years at Penn

Illustration by Matt Clough

My first day of class at the University of Pennsylvania was an introduction unlike anything I could have predicted. It was my fourth day living on the East Coast — I was born in the Midwest and grew up in the South — and the third time I got lost around campus. Penn felt like a huge kingdom filled with the kinds of mini-castles you’d find in Harry Potter books. The historic towers had real ivy that climbed the walls. Campus lawns and gardens were elaborate displays of exotic horticulture. It was everything I imagined it would look like, but better.

There were a few yard workers tending to the lawn as the sun began to rise. They looked at me strangely as I skipped across Locust Walk all by myself. One of the men asked if I was lost, and I told him I was headed to class. Read more »