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I Hope She Knew

January 19, 2016


She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future

Proverbs 31:25


              I hope she knew.

As I sit in class my heartbeat races to the point that it aches
See most of the time my heart beat races because I’m in dental school and that’s kind of normal, but today is different
Today the topic in class is patients from different ethnic and racial backgrounds
On this particular day I feel like 204 eyes are painting my body one stroke at a time until
it is completely colored black.

On this particular day I am reminded of how different I am.
How I’m the only African American male in my class
and how it is important for me to not only make it for myself
but for me to make it for my family and for my friends,
for my future patients and for those who said I would never make it
and for the little black boy who thought that
he would never amount to anything
simply because no one told him that he could be more than just an athlete.

I slump deeper in my seat as I try to match the downward pull my stomach is doing to keep from regurgitating last nights dinner…but also quite frankly
I don’t want the acid to build up on the lingual surfaces of my teeth and cause dental erosion. But I digress

The pressure to speak
as well as the discomfort
paralyzes my cerebral cortex and the only thing I can think about is …

I wonder how Ida Gray felt? Excuse me, Dr. Ida Gray

She must have been aware of the fact that she was the ONLY African American in her class?
I’m sure someone must have passed a note to her during orientation and told her that she was the FIRST African American Female student in all of this great country’s history to embark on such a journey.
I assume she must have known that she was making history
She had to have been cognitively aware that she was laying the foundation for future people of color to continue to build the infrastructure of those to come. For me.
I wonder if she was able to discern that 129 years after her first day of dental school that her name would touch every single one of the fungiform papillae on my tongue and that I would try to swallow her name as much as possible trying to ingest just half of the significance that it possessed. IDA GRAY

I sometimes wonder if my feet have touched many of the same places her feet have. If my ears have
heard words that have bounced off of the same walls that once held the words of Dr. Gray’s
I wonder if she knows how much she has helped the little black boy who thought that
he could be nothing more than a jock.

It’s people like Dr. Gray and visionaries like this school
that in the midst of racial segregation and tension could start a catalytic chemical reaction
that eventually led to a plethora of African American dentists to date


As I sit in class, my heart no longer aches.

I sit up straight and think about the invisible crown on my head.

I come from the great lineage of those who have come before me.

I stand on the shoulders of record makers, trailblazers, and firsts.

My name is Carl. I’m the only African American male in my class and I am Ida Gray.


Carl Buchanon II is a D1 and shared this spoken word poetry before an incredibly moved audience at the 35th annual King’s Feast, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr and his legacy.

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