Andreia Soares ’27 and Cole Alleyne ’27 Discuss the Experience of Being Black Students at Trinity

6 min read

Maile Fowler ’27

Contributing Writer

Trinity College has a long, complicated relationship with race. Over the past 200 years, the institution has become more inclusive over time. Thousands of students have matriculated, each with individual stories. This week, the Tripod had the honor of meeting with Andreia Soares ‘27 and Cole Alleyne ‘27 to discuss their experiences as Black students at Trinity.

Alleyne, a Jamaican and Puerto Rican student from West Hartford, attended a predominantly white high school. However, he would spend his weekends in the city among a primarily Black and Puerto Rican population. “I grew up straddling both worlds,” Alleyne remarked. “It was honestly the perfect way for me to grow up, as someone of color, because I got to see the dichotomy between two groups.” He expressed how this influenced his views on race and how he “views institutions when it comes to race.” Alleyne says that because of his upbringing, he conquered the feeling that he “does not belong,” but recognizes that many people of color did not have the same opportunity.

Soares had a different experience finding herself. “I feel like where I grew up led me to understand my Blackness, and interact with my Blackness, in different phases.” Living most of her life in a Boston suburb, Soares was within a mainly white community. “There was that first wave of understanding, especially in middle school, that I am Black,” she explained. She had to learn how to differentiate herself from her peers and become aware of who she was. Soares said her second phase arrived when she began attending a more progressive high school. “There were clubs, like Black Student Unions, that did not exist at my old school,” and “this is where I understood that I am not dark skinned.” Soares saw this as a pivotal moment because she realized the privileges of having lighter skin. “The third phase was understanding that I am African, not African-American.” Soares is Cape Verdean, and while she recognizes her culture is similar to African-American culture, finding her personal differentiation was her final phase.

Alleyne and Soares argued that “growing up around white people did not hinder [their] Blackness.” It allowed them to understand it in different ways. It led Alleyne to learn how to balance both worlds and Soares through the phases of self-identification. Both individuals carried these experiences to Trinity College, affecting the way they view diversity on campus. Alleyne believes his experience gifted him with the ability to “relate to almost anyone on campus.” He has “been exposed to a lot of things that would be consistent with and enjoyed on a campus like Trinity,” and believes the student body is more welcoming than often thought. However, Soares stated, “it can be hard as a Black person to try and create space for [yourself] where there is no space,” especially since both admitted, “Trinity is designed for white people.” Soares and Alleyne agree that it is possible to find a balance even though “straddling two worlds is a big job.” Ultimately, both recognize that their experiences are “not necessarily every Black student’s,” and it is deeply personal.

Soares and Alleyne acknowledge that Trinity has created an outlet for Black students. Although it often feels like white students attend “Camp Trin” and students of color come with a more explicit goal of success rather than fun, they believe it is more about class than race. Of course, class and race are intertwined.

Alleyne feels like “Trinity does try to make space for Black people.” “For a long time,” Soares explained, “Black people were not even officially able to come together. The first hurdle was getting a Black Student Union allowed on campus, which is crazy because, of course, they should be allowed.” She now asks, “What’s next? How do we make Black people feel further comfortable?” Alleyne was happy reporting that he feels Trinity has progressed. Instead of just a BSU, there are organizations like the Caribbean Students Association, where Alleyne is an E-Board officer, and the African Students Association. Alleyne expressed that a “[hard] thing is to pick where and when to immerse yourself.”

The opportunities for Black students and how to take advantage of them must be discussed. “Our nuanced opinion on this is a lot about how we get to experience our own Blackness in whatever way we choose,” says Alleyne. “A lot of times, there’s pressure on both sides, white and Black, for students of color to feel a certain way. It’s all about choosing how to identify with your own identity. The whole point of being at a place like Trinity is to interact with people who are from different places with different opinions and a different outlook.” As Soares said, the history of Trinity and the U.S. completely eliminated Black people from higher education. “I think it is kind of essential that these groups, especially their leaders, try to at least emphasize that it’s important to take advantage of these four years, where we have the opportunity to interact with new people. [It is also] important to take the [chance] to succeed financially, since Black people did not used to have that opportunity,” said Alleyne. They believe it is a balance, but a balance that people may not take advantage of. “It is not just about [academic] classes. I could’ve done this all on Zoom. It is about enabling the Black community to feel confident when they step out of the college setting.” Soares added, “there is psychology behind your grades being worse simply because you feel like you do not belong.” To Alleyne and Soares, it is about finding the interaction between themselves and the world.

Soares said being Black “can be so profound and deadly, while at the same time being something positive, light and easy. It [is] hard for any group of people, of any ethnicity, to carry the weight of dispelling all the issues, traumas and boundaries that come with going to a predominately white school.” As Alleyne argued, “Sometimes, all it takes is a conversation, and it’s never been easier to have the conversation than now.” They hope this article and other conversations can be the beginning of new perspectives.

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