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It was December 1988, two weeks before finals. Troy Potter, a young Black male from inner-city Philadelphia, sat alone in his cold dorm room thinking about the future. His chemistry book was resting open at his desk. He had been stuck on page 306 for the past thirty minutes while staring at the plain white walls in front of him. He was unfocused, feeling unsure of success and afraid of failure. And he had learned a hell of a lot in only a year of study inside one of America's major institutions.
It was Troy's dream as a high school basketball star to attend a Division 1 college: national television exposure, state-of-the-art campus facilities, thousands of fans, and a top-rate education. State University, housing thirty-five thousand students, ninety percent of whom were White, afforded him the opportunity.
State U was located in the East, inside Marsh County, which held a population of some 750,000 citizens, roughly sixty percent White, thirty percent Black, and ten percent multiethnic. The large, green campus was clean and spacious, the pride of Marsh County.
Troy was impressed, and proud of its colorful basketball stadium and the football field with a nine-lane track; the recreational center and the gigantic cafeteria; the sky-rise dormitory buildings; and how the immediate campus took up six square blocks near downtown. Buses escorted students to the dental school, the medical school, the engineering building, and the White fraternity houses.
Madison Avenue, a huge, five-lane street (three lanes heading north and two lanes heading south), ran straight through the middle of campus. Henry Road, a scenic andgrassy curving road, headed uptown on the far northwest side. Charleston Street, on the far southeast side, headed downtown and had most of the shops, stores, and traffic.
Black Americans had raised hell during the fifties and sixties, so that the seventies, eighties, and nineties generations could attend institutions of the caliber of State U. A government-imposed affirmative action clause to create underprivileged-minority scholarships made it possible, despite low academic testing, which is believed to be culturally biased. However, the experiment of having Blacks on predominantly White campus grounds remained an enormous task. And Troy felt its full weight.
To all African peoples
who have an undying courage
to complete their destinies.
Copyright © 2003 by The Urban Griot
Chapter One: Day One
"Hello, students, my name is Pam Whatley, and I'm your course counselor from now until the time you graduate from State University. You all have been accepted to this university under the condition that you maintain a two-point-oh grade point average as members of C.M.P. C.M.P. stands for 'College Motivation Program.' What this means is that you all are required to take strengthening courses in math, general science, and reading and writing. You also will be required to enter an academic student course, which is a two-part class designed to help needy students in study skills and planning.
"You students have been placed in this program as a result of low S.A.T. scores, but that does not mean that you're incapable. State University has specifically installed this particular program to help strengthen your academic skills in needed areas. After the completion of your first year's courses in C.M.P., you will have no further requirements from the university and may work in subjects of your major. Now, I would like to meet you all," said the heavyset, cinnamon-skinned woman in a hot-pink skirt suit. She pointed to the tall and slim student seated in the front row. "So you are...?"
"I be Troy Potter, Ms. Whatley," he answered jokingly. The other freshmen giggled. Ms. Whatley assumed that Troy was a bit overconfident, a headstrong inner-city boy with a chip on his shoulder.
"I see. So you're pretty smart, hunh?" she asked, smiling to herself at his humor. "I hope your grades after the first term will reflect that."
"Yeah, me too," he said.
"Who are you?" Ms. Whatley continued. Her eyes focused on the student sitting directly behind Troy.
"My name is Peter Barnes," the second student answered. Peter was cream-colored, with thick brown hair and an unblemished baby face. He stood when he introduced himself, drawing the undivided attention of his twenty-seven classmates.
"Well, aren't you a properly mannered young man," Ms. Whatley said to him. Troy turned his head with a frown and glanced out the window, unfazed. He figured that standing up was unnecessary.
"My name is Matthew Forbes," said the next, loosely dressed student. Matthew wore extra long shorts and a brightly colored Hawaiian shirt obviously too large for him. He was as brown as Troy, with short wavy hair. He brushed his small waves to the left and kept a part to the right.
A well-dressed, darker-brown-toned student giggled for no apparent reason from the back row, grabbing Ms. Whatley's attention. "Excuse me, Mr. Chuckles, you mind telling us what your name is?" she asked, challenging him.
"My name is James Clayton," he responded in a mellow tone. James spoke as if he were planning to seduce Ms. Whatley, making some of the students snicker. He then turned and faced the rather large student sitting beside him, who had continued to smile since Troy's introduction.
"Tell her your name, homes," James said to the larger student.
Bruce helped himself from his chair, smiling at the noise it had produced from scraping a newly waxed tile floor.
"Ah," he began, taking a peek at Troy, who portrayed a goofy look, a tilted head, and an open mouth. Bruce stopped in his tracks and cracked the hell up. Several classmates were getting rather bored with all the silliness going on. They decided not to join him. But Troy did.
"Hold up. My man Troy is makin' me laugh," Bruce said, trying to gather himself. "Yeah," he responded, finally settling down, "my name is Bruce Powell."
Witnessing the massive size of the young man, Ms. Whatley was curious about his college status. Bruce was six-two, 220, with massive arms, legs, and shoulders.
"Are you on the football team?" she asked.
Bruce shook his head before he answered. "Naw. But I plan to go out for the team."
"Well, good luck," Ms. Whatley told him, moving on.
"My name is Tanya Moore," said a bashful girl who sat in the front row next to Troy.
"Hmm, don't you have a Southern accent," Ms. Whatley commented.
"Yep," Tanya agreed, grinning. "I'm from Atlanta, Georgia," she said. Her reddish brown, silky hair matched her skin and eye color.
"I'm from Atlanta, too," Bruce yelled to her. Tanya turned and smiled at him. Troy looked back to Bruce and gave him an "OK" hand signal in reference to the pretty, well-shaped Southern belle.
The lagging introductions took nearly forty minutes for the twenty-eight students. Ms. Whatley then took a deep breath and clasped her meaty hands together. "Well, since we've all met each other, it's almost time for the freshman picnic on the west lawn. There will also be a dance, later on tonight, in the Student Activity Center, next to the Baxton Dormitory Hall. I've given you all a map of our large campus, and I'll see you tomorrow at nine o'clock, sharp, to orient you for your math and reading placement exams," she informed them. She gathered the leftover maps and pamphlets while the students filed out of the room.
Troy was the first to speak as several of the guys walked in the same direction toward the picnic area. "Yo, we was buggin' out in there, cuz," he said, followed by Bruce, who had already taken a liking to him. "And that counselor's a little overweight, but I'd do her," Troy added.
"Yeah, mayn, you had me crackin' the hell up," Bruce said, walking beside him.
"Yo, homes, I'll meet y'all over there," said James. "I gots to go change."
"Aw'ight, troop, we'll be over there somewhere," Matthew answered.
Bruce and Troy chuckled, watching James walk away in a shirt and tie.
"Hell he wear a suit and tie for anyway, as hot as it is out here?" Troy responded to Bruce. Everyone else wore shorts and T-shirts in the ninety-degree August weather.
The pack of freshmen drifted toward the fried chicken table in the picnic area, flooded by thousands of White students. Their small Black group was a few specks of pepper mixed in a table full of salt.
Troy shouted across the yard, seeing a friend that he knew from high school. "Yo, Clay, what's up, man? Come over here!"
Clay was with another small crew of Black students. "Well, if it ain't my boy Troy. What's up, man?" he asked, reaching out to shake hands. He already appeared excited about college. "You shoot game to any girls up here yet?"
Troy shook his head. "Naw, not yet. It was this tough girl in my advisory class. She looks good as hell. But let me introduce you to my boys," he offered, turning to face his companions. "This is Bruce, Mat, Pete -- and damn, I don't know where the rest of the dudes went." Troy pointed to each individual, realizing that the majority of the students had gone off on their own missions. "My man Jay will be here after he finishes changing his clothes," he said, giggling. "Nigga came out here in a shirt and tie."
Clay introduced his group of new friends. Both crews then proceeded to rack up food like a platoon of hungry soldiers after a day of training.
Troy and Clay, unintentionally separated from the bunch, found themselves in a private conversation. "Ay', Troy, I had no idea that it would be this many white mugs up here," Clay hinted, shaking his head in amazement.
"Yeah, cuz, me neither," Troy responded. "I ain't never seen this many White people in my life. This shit is like a rock concert. Yo, here comes my boy Jay now! Yo, Jay! We're over here, cuz!" Troy shouted, while raising his hand to direct James in the right direction.
James said in a hurry, "Ay', y'all, we should go to the gym. Everybody is up there. Well, a lot of brothers are, anyway." He seemed to be in a rush as he bent over and retied his shoes. "I'on know about all these White boys. I hope it ain't a lot of them up there. They can't run ball anyway. It might be a bunch of 'em up there thinking they Larry Bird."
Troy nodded. The group headed off to the athletic hall, on the northeast side of campus. As James had expected, the courts were filled with Black students. A few White groups gathered their teams to challenge the winners, who were almost always the Black teams.
James drifted away from their pack as he joined several upper-class students. He seemed to know them already. After a few minutes, he came back to discuss his plans with the rest of the group, but mainly with Troy.
"Yo, Troy, you wanna run with us, homes?" James asked, confident of a positive response. He rubbed his left hand over his goatee, neatly trimmed along with his mustache.
Troy tilted his head back, presenting a frown of confusion. "With who?" he asked, looking in the direction from which James had returned.
"My boy Big Lou picked me, and they wanted another man. So I told them that you could run," James answered.
"I thought we was gon' all run ball together," Troy said.
James smiled, glancing at the confused group of classmates. He whispered back to Troy. "Yo, homes, most of them dudes don't look like they can run ball. I mean, you look like you can play," James explained while looking over Troy's athletic, six-foot frame.
"Naw, man, that's aw'ight," Troy told him, backing away to rejoin his new friends. He thought that everyone would remain together. However, Bruce jumped at the opportunity.
"Yo, mayn, I'll run with y'all," he announced, taking off his shirt to join James, Big Lou, and two other tall teammates.
Troy smiled, curling up his tongue. "Go ahead, then. We gon' wax y'all next game anyway," he said. He called to play the winner for the next game. He then turned to Peter and Clay, who stood nearby. "You see how people get new on you?" he asked them.
"Yeah, that was kind of raw," Clay said, realizing his own confusion. "Well, Troy, who we gon' run with now?" he asked.
"We got enough people. We can run with what we got."
Matthew, who wasn't particularly happy to be in the gym in the first place, attempted to back out.
"Yo, Troy, I ain't that good at running ball. I'll just watch."
Troy insisted that he play. "Naw, man. We came up here to run ball, and that's what we gon' do. You can't let yourself get all intimidated by them knuckleheads. Now, as soon as their game is over wit', we gon' play ball."
As they all waited, Troy glued his eyes on James to see if he was any good. James made countless turnovers and missed shots. Time and again, the rest of the team covered for his mistakes as they pulled off a last-minute, four-point win. Bruce, on the other hand, played well, connecting with four jump shots and completing two layups for twelve points. He also grabbed eight hard-fought rebounds off the backboards.
"Yo, boys, the game is over. It's our time to start balling!" Troy shouted, facing his nervous teammates.
Matthew walked and gave him a handshake. "Yo, you aw'ight, troop. And I forgot to tell you that you have a good memory. You knew all our names earlier. That was pretty good."
"Yeah," Troy responded, "it comes in handy with the women, too."
"Word, right, so you can get them digits and knock some boots."
Troy was not familiar with the term. "Yo, cuz, I ain't tryin' to knock no girl's boots," he said. Matthew started to laugh as Troy stood there and smiled, waiting for an explanation.
"You funny as hell, man," Matthew told him. "But naw, knocking boots means gettin' some ass, in New York."
Troy laughed himself, feeling relieved. "Man, I ain't know what you was talkin' about. So that's what Salt-n-Pepa meant in that 'Tramp' song, hunh?"
"Yeah," Matthew said, still chuckling to himself as the team entered the court.
Troy was one of the shortest on his team, second to Peter's five-ten. Matthew was six-four, Clay, six-two, and Reggie, whom Clay had introduced, was a skinny six-six.
"Y'all got all of y'all men?" James asked, checking Troy the ball.
"Yeah, we ready, you traitor," Troy said, smiling.
James chuckled, anxious to start the ball game. "Aw'ight, homes, let's get this shit on, then."
Troy connected on the first jump shot to get the game rolling. Capitalizing on James's mistakes, Troy made a couple of steals, followed by passes to his teammates to guarantee that everyone got a shot. Matthew proved quite effective on the backboards. He had lots of rebounds. On the whole, their team played well, except for Peter, who had a problem shooting underhanded. Players on both teams laughed at every shot he took, especially when he missed. And Peter missed a lot.
With Troy's team ahead 36-32, because of teamwork and James's turnovers, James's squad brought the basketball downcourt. Bruce was having a tantrum because his baskets refused to fall. As a result, he started to lag up the court, giving Troy's team a defensive advantage. But no matter what the odds were, it came down to James's three big men doing a job on Matthew. Their defense tightened as well, and Troy's teammates found themselves receiving few second shots. Having collected eighteen points, Troy took charge of the game. He hit the next and last four points that his team was able to amass. James's team was again victorious. They won 44-40, just as they had beaten the last team.
"Unh-hunh, homes. You were talking all that shit and couldn't pull it out," James said, rubbing it in.
Not even a slight smile showed from Troy's face of rebellion. "Ay', Jay, you didn't do a damn thing! I had twenty-two points and, like, twelve assists. I had six steals and, like, five rebounds. Now tell me, Jay, 'cause I really want to know. What the fuck did you do?"
Everyone laughed a good hard one as James joined in himself. "I won, and I'm still on the court for the next game. That's what I did," he responded.
Troy turned and faced Clay for an explanation. "Now, Clay, if a person didn't do shit to win but is bragging about the victory, then he's a damn fool, to me, for not being true to himself. You know me from high school, Clay, and if I don't do shit in the game, I'll say that y'all won instead of 'we.' Now, that's an act of a man and not a mouse, and I think Jay got cheese sandwiches in his book bag."
By then, everything Troy said was awarded by a roar of laughter. "You know what, Jay? I'll play you whenever you wanna go, and then we'll see how much you've learned from riding the bandwagon," he added.
James giggled and didn't care, as long as he was on the winning team.
Troy arrived at his dorm room, a double. He noticed that it had been filled with clothing and boxes. Suspecting that his roommate had arrived, he walked into the floor's bathroom, to find a crowd of freshmen being lectured to by an older Black student who spoke proper English and wore blue high-water slacks:
"Any damages on the floor will be paid for by, if not the person who has perpetrated the particular crime of damaging campus property, then by the entire floor."
Troy searched the faces of his fellow floor mates, who all appeared to be bored. Not including the speaker or himself, he counted only three brown faces: there were two massive football players and one small student wearing glasses.
The speaker acknowledged Troy's presence. "Hello, fellow floor mate. My name is Charles Davison, and I will be your resident assistant for the year. Aah, what have you missed? Well, basically, nothing. The boys and I are just sitting in here bullshitting around and playing with ourselves," the cone-headed resident assistant said. He paused to collect the laughter before he continued.
"No, basically, we just went over the rules, I told the guys my duties, and we introduced ourselves. So what else do you want to know?" Charles asked, receiving more laughter from the students. He looked as if he wanted to pat himself on the back.
Troy watched the football players, who were smiling.
"No, seriously. Aah...person," Charles said, extending his hand for a shake. The students were all beside themselves with hardy laughter. "Come on now, you guys, so we can get this thing over with," Charles told them. "Well, I. We," he continued, smiling to himself, "would like to know your name and room number. R-i-i-ight guys," he said, stretching his eyelids and expecting another laugh. Charles was trying hard to be a comedian.
Troy smiled and shook his head. "Yeah, well, my name is Troy, and I live in room eighteen-ten," he told them seriously. He effectively stopped all the silliness that had been going on.
"Hey, guy, that's my room! You must be my roommate, then!" yelled a tall, green-eyed White fellow with light brown hair. He stepped toward Troy for a handshake.
"Do you see what we have here? You two buckaroos are roommates," Charles said. "Now isn't that special?"
"Yeah?" Troy responded, wishing that Charles would shut up and get on with business.
The wavy-headed roommate was still excited. "I saw you running ball at the gym, Troy. You're pretty good. By the way, my name is Simon Osenberg," he said.
After more discussion, the ordeal was finally done with. All of the students were released to their rooms.
"So you was up at the gym, hunh, Simon?" Troy asked to start things off.
"Yeah, I was there. But the guys I was playing ball with were bums, a bunch of Italians," Simon told him. "They couldn't run ball for shit, I tell ya. Your team was doing all right against those big guys, though."
"Dig, cuz. You see how big them suckas were? And we still hung in there!" They chuckled as Troy felt proud of himself.
"Maybe we can go run ball sometime, Troy," Simon offered.
"Whenever you down, man. I'll go."
"Great, but Troy, I have some more stuff in my car, if you could give me a hand."
"Aw'ight, man. Let's go get it," Troy responded. He left the room immediately and headed for the floor's elevators. Simon quickly followed him.
They jumped onto the elevator, conversing while riding down eighteen floors and stopping to pick up other students. Lots of freshmen, as well as returning students, crowded the large freshman dormitory lobby. The college hype was stirring, and classes did not begin for another two days.
Entering the refreshing night air, Simon showed Troy to a dark gray, up-to-date Cadillac Coupe de Ville parked inside the student car lot.
"Damn, cuz! This is your car?" Troy exclaimed, shocked.
"Yeah, I just got it a couple months ago," Simon said with a grin.
"Is it brand new?" Troy asked. He looked at the shiny outside coat and the clean, gray, velour-looking interior.
"Well, it's not exactly new," Simon hinted. "See, my father had gotten it from some guy who wanted to trade it in."
Troy nodded. "Y'all Jewish dudes get all kinds of deals."
Simon looked at him, surprised. "Wow! Get out of town! How did you know I was Jewish?" he shouted.
Troy searched the parking lot to see who had heard before answering. Simon had a loud mouth. "Because of the name, man," he explained. "All names I've ever heard of with 'Bergs' and 'Steins' in it, I just thought were Jewish."
"Yeah, I forgot all about that. You're right," Simon agreed.
They grabbed two handfuls of items to take back to the dorm. Troy quickly realized that Simon had a lot more stuff than he. He began to wonder if his roommate was rich. He thought that not only would he have a so-far-cool White roommate, but a wealthy one as well. Troy didn't plan to be a leech, he was simply interested in experiencing how wealthy Jewish people really lived.
After they returned to the room and put the items on Simon's side, they began to discuss their separate plans for the night.
"So, Troy, what are you going to do tonight?" Simon asked, as though he was interested in tagging along.
"I'm goin' to that freshman party in the student game room. They're supposed to have a reggae band over there too. Why, you wanna go?" Troy offered. He would feel guilty if he did not at least invite Simon.
"Yeah, I like reggae," Simon said. "Then again, I still have a lot of unpacking to do, and I'm the type of person that has to do something immediately, or it won't get done."
Troy looked around at all the chaos created by Simon's things inside their small, shared room. "Who you tellin'? You got shit all over the place. This place looks like a damn flea market in here," he said. "You might be unpacking until tomorrow."
They shared another laugh as Simon agreed. "Yeah, I know, right."
"Aw'ight, Sime, I'm 'bout to take a shower and go to this party, then," Troy informed him. He took off his clothing, partially, while keeping his underwear on. He rubbed plenty of thick yellowish shampoo into his hair and grabbed his slippers, soap, washcloth, and drying towel. After cleansing and grooming himself, he got dressed and returned to the freshman dormitory lobby to catch up to his friends, succeeding only in finding James Clayton.
"You going to that party?" James asked him. He spoke with the smooth voice that he had been speaking with all day. To Troy, it seemed a bit fabricated. He suspected that it might sound sexy to some women, though.
"Yeah, man, but where's everybody else?"
James hunched his shoulders. "I'on know, homes. I thought they was with you."
Troy, thinking about his new friend's voice, began to grin.
"What's so funny, homes?" James asked curiously.
"Nothin', cuz. Nothing at all," Troy insisted, still smiling.
"Did you meet your roommate yet?" James asked. He frowned as though he were expecting bad news.
"Yeah, he's cool as hell, too. He got his own car, a nineteen-inch color TV, and clothing up the ass," Troy answered.
James sucked his teeth. "Homes, I got this fat-ass White boy, man. This dude is goofy as hell. But oh, he got a computer with games and shit on it. And he got a printer hooked up to it, homes. So you know I'm gon' be right there using it," he said, cracking a smile.
"You got any sisters, Jay?" Troy asked, leaning up against a video game.
"Yeah. How you know?"
"Oh, I was just askin'."
James shrugged and looked around. "It's a whole lot of White girls up this college, homes. I know I'm gon' be gettin' me some," he said, as if he had planned it all.
Troy looked bewildered. "You had some White girls before?" he queried.
"Hell yeah, homes!" James exclaimed. "This White girl lives right next door to me at home. I used to knock her every day."
Troy smiled in amazement. "You live right next to a White girl, hunh?" he asked. "I 'on know, man. These White girls look like virgins to me."
They both looked around at the flirtatious damsels who seemed to be everywhere in packs of five.
"Naw, homes, some of these White girls are dying to talk to a brother," James assured him.
Troy stood firm. He was in need of proof.
"Watch this, homes," James said.
They gave their attention to a slender, dark-brown-haired, olive-toned girl.
"Excuse me, pretty, what's your name?" James asked her.
The olive-toned girl glared, responding as if James had said something nasty to her. She leaned away to avoid him.
James rubbed his goatee. He seemed to treasure it, as though he had waited awhile for it to grow and was in love with it. "Oh, you ain't got to act all scared of me," he commented, smiling at the olive-toned girl.
Three other girls appeared from nowhere and rudely inserted themselves into the conversation. "Well, h-i-i-i. Who are you guys?" one asked. The first girl then decided it was safe to talk to James, since the cavalry had arrived. Her feathery white hand reached out toward his chest.
James was intrigued. "My name is James, but just call me Jay," he responded.
Troy backed away to avoid being so close to them. They were already invading his buffer space. He knew his time was coming, though. He looked away in an effort to halt the aggression of the four single White females, who all of a sudden appeared to be in sexual heat.
"So what's your friend's name?" one asked James. They all looked toward Troy.
"Oh, that's my boy Troy," James answered, grinning ear to ear and continuing with his plot.
"Well, he's cute. But is he that shy?"
Troy frowned, turning his back to them completely. He could not believe that a skinny, long-nosed White girl had called him shy.
James chuckled. "Naw, he ain't shy. So what y'all gon' get into tonight?" he asked, deciding not to bother Troy. James figured that the first girl he had spoken to was indeed the prettiest. He directed all of his questions to her.
"Well, I don't really know," she responded. "It's like whatever comes up, I guess."
Troy turned back around to view their facial expressions. He felt that James was attempting to go for the gold.
"So aah, why don't you and your girl chill with me and my boy Troy, since you don't have anything to do tonight?" James suggested to the girl who had called Troy cute.
"Well, she would like to, but I don't think her boyfriend would go for that," one of the remaining two interrupted.
James grew testy. "How come she ain't say nothing about him, then? I think y'all two should mind your own business," he said, asserting himself.
Troy started to enjoy the situation.
"Look, why don't you two just go ahead? Your girlfriends will see you later," James suggested. He was determined to convince them. And like clockwork, his plan succeeded; the two outcasts fled while the two prospects remained.
"So what we gon' do?" James asked them.
"Well, we're gonna go to the party because our friends will be waiting for us. And besides, I have to get up really early tomorrow for the reading and math tests and all. Don't you guys have the exams?" the olive-toned girl said, all in one breath.
Troy was dazzled by her quickness of tongue.
James, however, was not impressed. He attempted to hold her by the arm and sweet-talk her. "Come on, now, you gon' see your girlfriends every day up here. They ain't goin' nowhere. I mean, you ain't gon' be out all night. It's only nine o'clock," he said slowly, to let it sink in.
Breaking free of his subtle hold so as not to make him angry from rejection, the girl whined. "Well, that's really OK. We'll just get with you guys another time," she suggested, backing away in the direction of the party.
Her long-nosed friend, who had expressed her liking to Troy, stayed to take a last look at him. And he ignored her.
"Damn, homes! We almost had 'em!" James shouted to Troy. "See how you talk to White girls? You gotta be rough with them dips so they know you ain't going for no dumb shit. We ain't get 'em tonight, but they'll remember us. Watch."
Troy just smiled, thinking that James had a case of jungle fever. He then strolled in the direction of the party.
"Where you going, homes?" James asked him.
"To the party. It's probably thick as hell by now," Troy answered.
"Yup, it probably is," James agreed, following. They both wore logo T-shirts and shorts. They entered the party and had to point out fellow Black students through the overflow of Whites.
"It ain't that many brothers at all at this school, just a bunch of White people," James mentioned. "It's a whole lot of Oreos here, too."
They walked though the crowds, both searching for pretty women. Troy was searching specifically for Blacks. James was searching for them all.
"Ay', Troy, I introduced myself to this one brother, and he sounded just like a White boy, homes," James alluded. "I was like, 'Hold up' and shit, you know? 'Is homes a brother, or what?' "
James continued talking while Troy observed the sights.
"You know what else, homes? I was talking to this old-head, and he told me that most of the Blacks up here are in C.M.P."
He finally got Troy's attention. "For real?" Troy asked him.
James's smile turned into laughter. "Yup, homes. I guess we just ain't smart enough to get into this school, besides them Oreos. And they might as well be White, to me. So they don't really count and shit."
They chuckled as Troy agreed. "Yup, cuz. It was, like, thirty people in our C.M.P. advisory group today. Only two were White."
While at the party, Troy observed, time and again, James getting turned down by White girls. Troy then spotted an entire crowd of Blacks. Finally! He approached them as James followed, practically begging to go to bed with someone's phone number in his pocket.
All their conversations went smoothly, and before the night was over, Troy had left the party with three phone numbers to James's four. All of Troy's numbers were from Black students. But James got a number from a White girl to break the tie in their contest. Troy told him that the White girl's number didn't count. Returning to his room at three o'clock in the morning, he found Simon still awake and listening to his radio through a pair of earphones.
"Hey Troy, how was the party?" Simon asked, taking off his earphones.
"It was cool, man. I met, like, ten girls and got three numbers," Troy answered. "But yo, my boy Jay got flagged by, like, twenty white babes."
Simon sat up in his bed. "Did he really?"
Troy smiled. "Naw, he just got flagged by, like, seven," he responded, chuckling. "Damn, Sime, I didn't even think to buy some earphones."
"Well you're welcome to use mine when I'm not using them," Simon offered.
"Aw'ight, then, bet," Troy told him.
They talked all night, getting better acquainted as the new day set in for scheduling and testing.
Troy caught the elevator down to the dormitory lobby in the morning and spotted Matthew walking out from the staircase.
"Yo, Mat, what's up, man? You're in the same building as me?"
"Yeah, I guess so. What floor you on?" Matthew asked him.
"Word? You way up that dip? I'm only on the third floor."
"Yeah, cuz. But where was you at last night? I ain't see you at the party," Troy quizzed.
"Oh, I knocked some boots last night, troop," Matthew said in a low tone, as if it was a secret. He was loosely dressed again, with an extra long red T-shirt that covered half his blue shorts.
Troy grinned. "You workin' kind of fast up here, Mat. Was she good-lookin'?"
"Naw. She's kind of big, too," Matthew answered.
Troy laughed. "You had a fat babe?"
Matthew giggled himself. "Yeah, but yo, don't tell nobody," he whispered.
"Aw'ight, cuz, I gotchu. I'm just jokin', man. Ain't nothin' wrong with having a fat babe every now and then. It's probably good for you."
After their second meeting with the C.M.P. counselor, everyone went their separate ways, except for Bruce, who followed Troy.
"Yo, Troy, where you goin', mayn?" Bruce asked.
"To my reading test in room three-fourteen."
"Yeah, well I gotta go to another building," Bruce informed him. Troy continued to walk as Bruce followed. "So, Troy, what y'all do last night?"
"Me and Jay was at that party," Troy answered nonchalantly. He was not up for a discussion. He was thinking about a girl he had met.
"Yeah, well I was talking to my girl back at home last night," Bruce told him.
"All night?" Troy asked, finally showing some enthusiasm.
"Yeah, mayn, she got me in love in do."
Troy frowned, turning the corner of Mason Hall, located in the middle of campus. "Yeah, well you and your girl picked a hell of a time to fall the fuck in love," he hinted.
Bruce chuckled again as Troy smiled.
"Troy, you's a funny-ass dude, mayn," Bruce said as they parted ways.
"Aw'ight, Bruce," Troy responded, still beaming about his comment. He entered room 314 and realized that he was the only Black student. He hoped that another melanin face would appear before things got started. However, the instructor wanted to set a friendly atmosphere, inquiring about the party.
"How'd you guys all like the party last night?" he asked.
One blond student, wearing black combat boots in eighty-five degree weather, spoke up first. "It was OK, I guess. But I didn't like that first group."
The rest of the White students seemed to agree. "I know, 'cause I don't really like reggae music," a platinum-haired girl added.
Troy thought the reggae band was best. The music had attracted more dancers. It had definite rhythm and tempo, and he could understand the words. The second group sounded like a bunch of noise to him. From the way the discussions were going, he expected it to be a long day.
As time neared to take the test, Troy's hope for more color faded. Seeing that he would be the only Black in the class, he felt lonely. The White students had their own conversations. He felt that maybe he wasn't trying to be friendly. So he decided to try.
"Excuse me, where did you get that bus schedule from?" he asked a neighboring brown-haired student. Not that he cared about the bus schedule. He just felt he could start a conversation through it.
"I beg your pardon?" the White lad queried.
"Never mind. Ta hell with it," Troy snapped. He had always hated the words "I beg your pardon" because they made him feel like he was illiterate. Coming from inner-city Philadelphia, he simply wasn't used to the term.
Finishing the reading test in less than two hours, Troy followed some students to the cafeteria on the southeast side of campus near the freshmen dorms. It was his first college meal. The students waited in eight long lines. Troy got a tray, some napkins, and silverware to join in. But as the lines moved, he noticed Black students jumping in front of people they knew. He then spotted Matthew and decided to do the same.
"Yo, Mat, let me get up, man," he said, smiling. He got up in front, expecting Matthew to give him the OK.
"Yeah, sure. Why not?" Matthew said, making room.
After receiving their food, they moved on to the soda machines. Troy sat his tray down to fill his glasses. White students crowded in, reaching over his plate to fill up theirs before he was quite finished. With quick reflexes, he knocked their glasses from in front of his tray, warding them off.
"Yo, cuz, you better wait till I'm finished before you plan on reaching overtop of my food again," he fretted. They stared at him as though he was in the wrong.
"Jeez! I'm sorry, man," the perpetrator responded, hunching his shoulders in confusion. Troy backed out with his tray, turning to spot Matthew, who had chosen a seating area. Troy took note of how all of the Black students sat in one corner section in the back of the cafeteria.
"Why is everybody sitting way back here?" he asked.
"I'on know, man," Matthew answered. "I just figured I'd sit where Black people were. Maybe everybody else did the same thing." They chuckled and began to eat, checking out the sisters sitting nearby.
"It's some good-looking babes up here, cuz," Troy commented.
Matthew grinned. "I know."
"I'm gon' have to charm a few of 'em," Troy said with a devilish smile. "But these White people are impolite as hell, cuz, leaning over my plate and all," he added.
"Everybody does that here," Matthew assumed.
"Do you do it?"
"No." They giggled as Matthew continued. "But you can't get all worried about little stuff like that, man."
"Yeah, yeah," Troy said, brushing off Matthew's advice.
They soon finished lunch, traveling back to Mason Hall for the results of the placement exams, only to bump into James, who appeared to be coming from that direction already.
"Did y'all hear, homes?" James asked them.
"Hear what?" Matthew piped up.
Troy stuffed his hands inside his pockets and leaned up against a tree.
"Us three busted the placement tests. We can take other hard classes with the White people," James answered.
Troy still was uninterested.
Matthew got excited. "Yeah, so only us three passed, hunh?"
"Yup. The rest of them are still in them C.M.P. classes," James informed them, snickering. Matthew smiled, but Troy frowned, standing upright.
"So how do you know this?" Matthew asked James.
James grimaced. "Damn, you ask a lot of questions, homes," he said, jokingly. "I asked our counselor. What's her name again?"
"Ms. Whatley," Troy said, finally joining in.
"Yeah, that's it. Ms. Whatley," James repeated.
Troy turned to surveyed his surroundings. Swarms of students were passing by. "Well, since we all exempt, let's go register for our classes," he said.
Matthew and James agreed, following Troy across Madison Avenue to the campus's west side. Inside the registration building they cut in the lines again.
"It's nice meeting you here, Clay," Troy said. They all laughed, softly, to avoid the extra attention from the already angry students who waited patiently in line.
"Yeah, aw'ight, Troy, just don't make this a habit," Clay said, smiling back.
Troy, Jay, and Matthew got in front of him. As the line moved, Troy spotted the executive-looking White woman and got nervous.
"Next," she ordered from behind a computer desk. Troy stepped forward and took a seat. "Fill out your name, social security number, and complete your courses over at the desk," the administrator said, pointing to a section of the registration room. It was packed with Whites. Seeing that, Troy decided, instead, to fill out his form near his friends. Taking about ten minutes to finish, he returned to the registrar to submit his course form.
"Check over your classes to see if everything is correct," she told him. Troy did so, skipping information to quickly return the form to the woman. "Did you check all of your alpha codes?" she asked doubtfully.
"Yeah," he told her with an attitude. She gave him a disapproving look. He captured it, and gave it back to her.
"OK. Thank you very much," she responded, calling for the next student.
The four Black males all finished in a short time and walked out.
"Well, fellas, tomorrow starts a new day," Clay announced with a glow. "Doesn't it, Troy?"
"Yup, man. It feels like starting over again, with a million White people and shit."
They all laughed.
"I know what you mean," Matthew said.
James shrugged. "At least we're here," he commented. "This school is the shit."
Copyright © 2003 by The Urban Griot