"Morgan State University?"
My mother had now asked me on three separate occasions if this was officially where I had selected to enroll in coursework during the summer of 2012. I nodded and smiled. I could sense my mother's reluctance and firmly understood her hesitancy.
From grade school and beyond, the majority of my life experiences were solely centered around Jewish interaction and connection. I prayed at Congregation Shomrei Emunah Synagogue on Greenspring Avenue, attended grade school at Yeshivat Rambam on Park Heights Avenue, and spent my summers at Camp Moshava, a Jewish day camp in Honesdale, Pa.
My exposure to people of various faiths, backgrounds, races, and the other intricacies that made humans, well, human, had remained limited. The notion of veering off of a simpler course startled my mother. It also startled me.
But, frankly, I was poorer because of it. My lack of exposure had hindered my mind and my soul. Not because my instructors thought I should lead a more varied life or because the national CNN broadcast team consistently preached the importance of diversity, especially in educational settings. Sure, those were compelling pieces to the puzzle. But I genuinely felt disconnected to parts of Baltimore that made it great. My limited interaction with different members of my own community hampered my ability to properly connect with those around me. How could I best interact with folks from all walks of life if I had not even met my neighbors? I was plagued by a lack of nuance and complexity.
So, yes, yes, and yes were the three responses to my mother. I would be attending Morgan State University for summer school. She smiled, and she was ultimately pleased that I would be broadening my horizons. I enrolled in two courses that summer, "The Emergence of Europe," a history course, and a political science elective that focused on the beauty of the American democracy.
It was in that political science elective where I met two African American women who changed my life forever. They tested my assertions, challenged my opinions and exposed me to new environments and cultural ideologies. We spent evenings traveling around parts of East and West Baltimore that I had never been to. We watched films and documentaries that were never on my radar. They educated me on their upbringings, their community's challenges and successes. We spoke deeply and meaningfully, engaging in dialogue that would last into the wee hours of the night. I was introduced to Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Charles Hamilton Houston and Nat Turner. And they were curious about my lifestyle and what emboldened me. I introduced them to Anne Frank, Theodor Herzl, Moses Mendelssohn, and Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. I was enriched by their vibrancy for life and the color they had added to the tapestry of my own existence. That summer helped shape who I am today and who I am to become.
Morgan State University recently celebrated its 150th birthday, it's sesquicentennial (I never even knew that was a word) celebration. And I wanted to say thank you to this wonderful educational institution.
As our country continues to fragment and hide behind party lines, making time for nuance and cross-cultural experiences has never been more important. Morgan State University fostered an environment that encouraged collaboration and friendship — multiplication, not division. I continue to feel connected to this special establishment; it stands as a beacon of hope, a light that values deeply the elements of life that bring us together, not the pieces that tear us apart.
Adam Neuman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a law student at the University of Pennsylvania.