By Jennifer White
“ This can’t be happening, I don’t want to go”, Latoya Remy said, as her father started the moving van. This was it they were leaving their old lives behind. There sat Latoya, as she was holding her hand to the window. She was looking back at the place she lived all her life. Slowly wiping the tears from her eyes; knowing her life wasn’t going to ever be the same. They were on their way to a new future, one that Latoya wasn’t at all ready for.
She was thirteen years old; when her parents moved from Queens New York, to Suffolk county Long Island. “ I was in complete culture shock”, Latoya said when asked about her move. She was in an entirely new environment, one very different from the one she spent most of her life in.
“ I walked into school the first day, feeling out-of-place. No one there talked to me, no one even cared to get to know me”. Latoya said as she recalls her first day of junior high school. She was placed in the Three Village School Districts. She didn’t see many African-American students as she roamed the halls of her new school. “ It was hard because I knew I wanted to fit in. I just didn’t know how, or even where to start. I never really felt at home, I went from a school with the majority of students being African-American and Hispanic. To almost every student being white. I couldn’t find any other students who were like me. Not just because most of the school was Caucasian but because I was a city girl living in suburbia”. Latoya said while talking about her feelings of coming to Long Island.
“I told Latoya to never let anything keep you down! I encouraged her to try new things. I wanted her to join a club and get involved in her new school. This was to be her new home and I felt that she should try her best to like it here. I wanted to make sure she kept who she was intact. Most kids who move at such a crucial age as Latoya did find it can be hard. Especially when you feel the need to fit in. What made it harder was she couldn’t find a common ground to stand on. She couldn’t find friends who she felt she connected with. She didn’t feel that anyone understood her culture and came from the same backgrounds as she did”. Charmain Remy said, speaking about her daughter Latoya.
It had nothing to do with color, it had to do with culture. Latoya did make and had a lot of friends. By the time she went to high school, she made life long friends from all different cultures. She loved the friends she kept near and dear to her heart. It wasn’t that She didn’t love them, or consider them good enough. It was just that she wanted a home like feeling. “I wanted someone to talk to about certain things. That some of my other friends wouldn’t understand”. Latoya said describing her need for familiarity.
Latoya joined some clubs in high school and they didn’t really fill the void for what she was looking for. She never truly felt at ease, or at home in her school. No matter how long she had been there. It was like she was always searching for a place to feel 100 percent herself. She graduated in 2008 from Ward Melville High school, it was a sad and happy time for her. She had been accepted to St. Johns University in Queens. She was hoping she would finally be able to move on. To find what she left, Maybe even fill a void she had for many years.
She started at St. johns in the fall hoping to feel at home again. She stayed for a few semesters. It went well and she liked it, but even being back in her old neighborhood didn’t feel like home. She couldn’t find the unity she longed for anywhere she went. She moved back home on Long Island with her family. So without any other options she figured she would enroll at Suffolk Community College.
“ You have to talk to Malika Lockheart”. Charmain Remy, Latoya’s mother insisted. So Latoya set up an appointment with Malika who works on campus; as an admissions counselor. It was the day of her appointment and she walked in and met Malika. Who right away looked and talked in a manner that was inspiring. Malika was trying to convince Latoya to join extra curricular activities here on the campus. “ I didn’t want to join anything here at Suffolk. I liked Malika but I didn’t want to join any more clubs. Up to this point I was sick of trying new things. All they did was just leave me feeling empty”, Latoya said.
Malika was wise and she was proud and she asked Latoya to come and check out her club. “ We help each other and others, it is a club for everyone. Not just African-Americans, its open and anyone and everyone is welcome. it’s a place where everyone can take pride in African culture”. Malika said about the African-American Culture Club.
After talking to Malika, Latoya went to check out the club, she was shocked to find. How homey and comfortable it was there. So she kept coming and slowly becoming apart of the club. “ I felt at home, it was a place where we reflect on our day and get things done. We help others by put together benefits. We are planning a lot this year! We will be planning benefits, to help many people. I want to try to have a fundraiser for Katrina and maybe an African Fashion show”. Latoya said while talking about upcoming events.
After being in the club for a while Latoya can say she found a place to express, learn and become a part of helping others. Not to mention she is now the president of the club. She was voted to be president by her fellow club members. She is finally in a place where she can help others, learn and be a apart of something that helps her feel at home. For those of you who are interested, in joining or checking out this club. The African-American Culture Club meets on Wednesdays, from 11:00 to 12:15. In room 108, in the Islip Arts building. They have a Facebook page which you can find on Facebook, under AASU Selden. Latoya is encouraging anyone who feels or has felt as she did; or anyone who feels like they need a place to feel at home. To come and be apart of something more than just an extracurricular activity. To find a sense of not only culture but of awareness.