A little more than a year ago, I wrote my Common Application essay about experiences with race:

“When I was in seventh grade, a black kid in my English class told me I was black on the outside but white on the inside because I talked like a white kid. I told that kid that ‘if black people aren’t allowed to speak standard American English, I have no interest in being black, so that works out, doesn’t it?’”

By the end of high school, I had come to terms with being a black person disconnected from majority-black culture. I didn’t feel actively negative about it. I even wrote my Common App essay about it. But it wasn’t until I came to Northeastern that I met other black people from different backgrounds who still had similar interests and who challenged my opinions.

My first semester, I volunteered with Generation Citizen (GC) in a middle school in Dorchester. (Aside: GC is fantastic, and you should attend all their events because I love them a lot.) Boston Public Schools are primarily non-white, and the combination of urban, “majority-minority” and under-resourced automatically made me uncomfortable as I realized that this was the exact demographic I felt I couldn’t relate to.

That lasted right up until I showed my class an example name tag with the Captain America shield split and the Winter Soldier star. One of my kids yelled, “OH MY GOD, WHO PUT CAPTAIN AMERICA UP THERE? AND THE WINTER SOLDIER?” For some reason, I was surprised. I don’t know why, considering that the Captain America iconography isn’t exactly subtle in the Marvel Universe films – which are some of the most successful films in the current decade. Where I am from, superhero fandoms weren’t diverse. Learning that a majority of the urban, non-white males in my class were Marvel comics fans who could debate the finer details of the Marvel Civil War event with me was a shock.

After being in college, I finally understand how African-American communities can both celebrate what I consider “majority black culture” and support black people who don’t consider that culture a natural fit. I’ve learned how to ally with other black students because we have something in common, regardless of the type of music we listen to or the movies we watch.

So thanks, Northeastern, for such an incredibly diverse community for me to learn from. It’s made all the difference.

– Jasmine Heyward is a freshman political science major.