Chapter 3: “Enter the Dragon”

“He–“ , I tried to say as the door swung open violently knocking over the box that was holding up the leftover CD’s yet to be put away, I saw her. “Vanessa Grayson,” R.J. would proclaim. “RayShawn Johnson”, Vanessa said very coldly. As she quickly shuttled herself into OUR room, behind her marched three other people, who I simply referred to as the “black-tourage”! Vanessa was every bit as privileged as R.J. had explained. She had an air about her that was that of a princess in her castle! As I closed the door, Vanessa looked at Dawn like she was Superman using his heat vision! R.J. then took it upon himself to ask the question that everyone was dying to ask. “What the heck are you doing in my room?,” R.J. proposed. “I’m just here to find out what exactly Ms. Rivera has been telling you about me.”  R.J. then said, “First of all, when you come into someone’s place unannounced you INTRODUCE yourself!” Vanessa would simply wave at me and say “Ms. Grayson”. She truly was an “ice queen” at our very first meeting. After we moved past the awkward stages of our meeting, RJ, Dawn, and I watched as Vanessa told the “black-tourage” to go upstairs and finish unpacking “her belongings” before they had to be back at the Grayson family compound in Decatur, Georgia. RJ never told me that Vanessa was sooo beautiful (he said she looked like Cole from “Martin” in a dress!) It was utterly ridiculous how GOOD she looked! (I imagined this would cause a tremendous amount of problems if I had voiced this at the present time) During our “short” conversation (it lasted 3 hours), Vanessa decided that it was in her “best interest” not to involve herself in any altercations the first week of orientation! So, as a group, we decided that Dawn’s side of the room could be whatever color and design she wanted and Vanessa’s side could be whatever she wanted it to be! After avoiding “Roommate-Gate”, Vanessa would make her leave in a huff, due to the fact that she ultimately did not get the opportunity to do things HER way!! RJ would coin the phrase, “the Grayson way”! RJ, Dawn, and I decided that we needed to “decompress” from the nights events, so we decided to drown our “sorrows” in more chicken and even more soda!! ( this would happen frequently during our freshman year, I definitely understand where the term “freshman 15” comes from!) It was during our “chicken-tervention” that I began to see RJ and Dawn’s relationship blossom. They started asking all those “in depth” questions that first dates ask, like, “how many boyfriends/girlfriends have you had, what’s your favorite color, television show, sports team, type of food, etc, etc, etc…it was during this line of questioning that I came to the realization that one, I was going to be the 3rd wheel in this group unless I found someone QUICK and 2nd the image of me with all of RJ leftover girls was evaporating right in front of my eyes!! (Damn you, New York!) Fresh off of our first incident with the “dragon”, not only was I tired, but extremely intrigued by what was in front of me! *PAUSE*

 After waking up too early to even remember, R.J. and I met up with the “Hatfields and McCoys” aka Dawn and Ms. Grayson in front of the Quad   as we headed to the Watkins United Chapel to begin the process that would make us “official” Wayne University students. (along with the other 400 incoming freshmen!)  In case you missed it, I go to an HBCU, which means “expect the unexpected”! No, seriously. I learned this lesson the hard way when first entering the Chapel to begin orientation, where I mistakenly stepped inside the “mystic orange square” that supposedly would determine if you would graduate from Wayne or not! (for some strange reason, I assumed studying and hard work would do that, not some funky old square in front of a chapel!) So, after I was almost thrown out of this square, R.J. and I found seats for the four of us. Vanessa and I were forced to sit next to each other since “Bonnie and Clyde” were now becoming the hottest ticket in town! (Arggh….this further distorted my plans of total future night club domination) It was here that the “4 Horsemen” would come into contact with Dean Soto. We patiently waited as Dean Soto marched to the podium bearing the insignia of Wayne University. As she started to speak, Dawn inched up closer in her seat (this was another relationship that would surprise me). Dean Soto would invite us into the fabulous world of Wayne. She told us that the next four years of our lives would help us determine where we wanted to go with our futures! She also explained that Wayne was the best school in the country and they were part of the “Black Ivy League”. It was at Wayne however, that we would get the insight, perspective, determination, and knowledge in order to move our society further and get this generation into the highest places and positions in government, science, education, and social/public policy. After we sat through the remainder of Dean Soto’s speech, I was pretty empowered (along with the other members of the incoming class). The first day of orientation was pretty uneventful. We sat through more lectures, got introduced to “The Gate” at SellMon College, which basically was like the Berlin Wall, until we got our “golden tickets” also known as our campus ID cards!


Chapter 4:“The Underground Railroad”/ “Hell Week”

           A FEW DAYS LATER

8:00 A.M. – Have you ever thought you were having déjà vu? Waking up at 8 has never felt so TERRIBLE! I’m starting to realize what the farmers in the MidWest go through: waking up EARLY, working ALL day, and starting it all over again every day! I say that because RJ and I had to be up at the crack of dawn (dawn starts at 8 in ATL)  due to the fact that we had gotten to the last few days of Orientation before we actually started classes , we had approached  what the upperclassmen called “HELL WEEK” ( which was only actually 2 days!) As we approached the “Centre” to what was our 2nd to last meeting, we saw Dawn at the front of the building looking kind of perplexed. I asked her what the problem was. She was holding a piece of paper given to her by one of the upperclassmen that had been milling around the Centre. “What is the Underground Railroad?” RJ and I looked at each other and laughed. “You don’t know what the Underground Railroad is?” RJ said. “I know what is it, but that’s not what they are talking about?”  I took the paper and read it, Wayne Orientation Committee presents “BLACK LIGHT: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!” *wear comfortable clothes and freshman/ freshwoman ONLY!* I’m sitting there holding this paper and im immediately becoming concerned. I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I’m not one for anything that involves the punishment of African Americans! (This is the part where RJ slapped me in the back of my head) After handing back the paper to Dawn, we found seats for what was actually a pretty interesting meeting. We found out that we would be receiving our official I.D. cards (this meant entrance into SellMon, YESS!) We also found out that we would be having “the official welcoming party” at any HBCU…A BLOCK PARTY!! (It wouldn’t be a black college without a party…trust me, I learned this the hard way)  After leaving our meeting, RJ, Dawn, and I decided that before we had to be back on campus we would make ourselves familiar with the city of Atlanta. Sidebar: Have you ever been to a NEW city and seen stuff that you would have NEVER seen at home?  Well, this happened to me on the MARTA heading to the Lennox Square Mall. I’m on the train, and like I’ve said previously I’m from CT., so  I don’t see too much “freaky” stuff that comes directly in front my face! However, on this particular ride, I saw about 4 dudes get on the train with FINGERWAVES and skinny jeans! (not that I have anything against men that actually do that but, I’m just saying!) So, we get off at the station and walked up to the street level. As soon as we exited, I could smell Southern BBQ among other different food as we crossed the street to the massive Lennox Square Mall. Once inside, I felt that I had been transported back to CT. (well, minus the fingerwaves and baby back ribs smell wafting through the air condition climate). Well, minus the smells, we enjoyed ourselves. We found all the stores every college student needs (Foot Locker , the pre-requisite hip hop clothing stores, and the Food Court) After our “mini-tour” was over, we headed back to campus to try and figure out what “THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD” was all about! (and believe me when I tell you, we definitely weren’t ready for this!) After, getting back in the dorm, RJ and I decided we were going to start asking questions in regards to this “Underground Railroad”. There must be a code at every college in Black America, because every time a freshman asks a question around here, the upperclassmen act like your looking to escape from SLAVERY!! Anyway, I left the questioning to RJ, partially due to the fact that he knew more upperclassmen than I did, hell, the only upperclassmen I knew wanted to KILL me! and he was getting more respect from random people, so I  let R.J. play detective! After he did his best ‘CSI: Atlanta’ impersonation, he came back with the scoop on what to expect. “nothing”, RJ said casually. “What do you mean ‘nothing’?”, I said puzzled. He would explain that none of the upperclassmen would speak because it was something that was an “unwritten rule” at Wayne that these “initiations” (if you will were to be kept secret) So, as we (Dawn, RJ, and I) sat and waited, we were left to wonder what was actually going to happen. And then it did.

After beating up on RJ in Madden 10,( 63-14, 22-10 respectively), we received a knock on the door. One of our Orientation guides, Cedrick was on the other side of the door. He told us to put on the blindfolds on that he was carrying. He proceeded to march us out of our dorm, to the field adjacent to the football stadium. It was here that we would begin the “Underground Railroad”! Ced told us to take off our blindfolds and we were shocked by what we saw! Every freshman from every school was standing at the far ends of each part of the field, it was here that we would learn more about the mystery of this event!  Ced was handed a bullhorn and then motioned for all of us to quiet down. Everybody eventually brought down the noise levels and Ced began to speak. “You are the future of our great institutions and in order to understand where you’ve come from….we present to you, “the Underground Railroad” Wait. I know what you’re thinking. Black School. Black People. Football field, full out party right? wROng. The Underground Railroad was a series of events amongst the freshman classes of each institution, to build camaraderie and a sense of unity. Ok, again I was kind of  struck by two things: 1. we had to do all of these events at 10 pm at night and 2. Where in the hell did ALL those fine Clark sisters come from? (lol) As, we were given a tshirt with our schools emblazoned on them, the orientation leaders began a chant,” I’ve got a feeling, I’ve got a feeling brothers , I’ve got a feeling, somebody’s trying to get at Wayne!!” we were asked to respond as if we had been in a Baptist church! (even some of the dudes who were openly gay were chanting, yelling, and screaming like they were about to play the Patriots in the SuperBowl) The winner of this “Underground Railroad” competition would be recognized at the HomeComing celebration that Fall!! So, ALOT was riding on us doing well! Let’s be clear about one thing, I’m not athletically gifted, I mean, I’ll do just fine in a pickup game of bball and at most physically changing events, but you won’t catch me on Sundays playing in MSG or on the turf at the Georgia Dome. I just tried to avoid getting hurt and seize an opening when I could. So, imagine if you will almost 1,000 college kids running around on a football field trying to outdo each other for the sake of recognition at schools that they hadn’t even attended a semester at! (don’t worry, I thought the same thing!) To make a loong story short, Wayne University’s freshman class will be recognized during the annual Homecoming weekend festivities!  Keep in mind, I was running behind RJ the whole night, so I consider it a win, win!! After we had gained our freedom via the “underground railroad” (which turned out to be a series of puzzles, mazes, physical competitions, and the “crown jewel”, a big game of football in a HUGE mudpit!)  RJ and I dragged ourselves back to the dorm, smelling like grass, dirt, sweat, and covered in mud! Just when I thought it was over, I remembered that the first day of classes was in 5 hours! Great and me being the genius that I am picked an 8 o’clock class! Argh!!! I’ll see ya’ll in the morning!