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Welcome to Spelman (And to Sisterhood)

Posted: 08/03/11 10:02 AM ET

My bed was made. Each piece of clothing I owned was either neatly put away in the drawers or hanging in the closet. I'd taped the inexpensive pictures I bought from Wal-Mart the previous day on the walls and my parents had returned to my grandmother's house for the night. After a long day of hauling moving boxes up three flights of stairs and running back and forth to the corner store for last-minute items I seemed to keep forgetting, I'd completed my move into Howard-Harreld first-year residence hall at the illustrious Spelman College, and was overdue for a good night's sleep. I would never get it.

At about 3 a.m. I was startled by ceaseless knocks at my door. "Get up! Wake up ladies!" Seriously? Were my R.A.s really banging on my door at three in the morning my first night in the dorm? I was annoyed, to say the least. But I cooperatively put on my sweats and went outside, only to find all 500 girls of my freshman class lined up in the street singing the Spelman hymn: "Spelman thy name we praise. Standards and honor raised."

I have to say, it was lot to take in for my first night on campus. But, I went along with it anyway. We walked across campus to Sister's Chapel. Upon entering, I noticed that not only was the chapel completely black, but there were several upper classmen standing against the wall, holding small candles. They didn't speak or make eye contact with us. Instead, they looked straight through us, focused and attentive.

To be honest, the environment was a little weird and freaked me out a bit. As we sat down, the upperclassmen proceeded to the front of the chapel, single file. "Greetings! My name is Lauren Hillsborough and I am your Spelman sister." "Hi. My name is Ashley Mathews and I am your Spelman sister." This was the first and only time these zombies had spoken all night.

The introduction of Spelman sisters continued with the upper classmen and then with the 500 girls of my freshman class for the next hour. After everyone became better acquainted, we ended the ceremony with the Spelman hymn once again and a congratulatory speech from Dr. Beverly D. Tatum, my school president.

Had I not known better, I would have sworn I was being initiated into a secret society, minus the blood oaths I had read about and seen in movies one too many times. Instead, I was now a part of the Spelman sisterhood. For the next four years of my young adult life, I would be surrounded by a strong support system of dynamic young women who were going great places and accomplishing wonderful things. I would better understand and appreciate my greatness as a black woman, with the advisement of dedicated professors and genuine mentors. My first night on campus was the first stage of my journey of becoming a Spelman woman. I couldn't get this experience at Emory.