Dartmouth men share experiences

by Eliza Relman | 11/19/09 11:00pm

Senior men discussed the events that have shaped their identities in front of a packed audience on Thursday night in Collis Common Ground. At the third annual "Men of Dartmouth" panel, the students discussed experiences ranging from racial self-discovery to the challenges of socioeconomic diversity.

The event featured six members of the Class of 2010 Samuel Crist '10, Muhammed Abdul-Shakoor '10, Jonathan Carty '10, Jason Spellmire '10, Eric Sanabria '10 and Alexander '10, who asked that his last name be withheld due to the sensitive nature of his speech.

Crist, a former Marine, spoke about a fellow service member who helped teach him the difference between right and wrong and the importance of transcending one's own personal needs to serve a larger goal. Crist said his friend was killed in action.

Crist, who was wounded in combat and spent five months in the hospital, said that he wants to return to military service after graduation.

"Being in the Marine Corps was the first time in my life that I've been in a place where people really care about what they're doing," Crist said. "They wouldn't be there if they weren't passionate about what they did."

Abdul-Shakoor related his experiences as a child in Senegal, and his consequent self-identification as an African-American Muslim, through a series of short stories he had written about this struggles with racial profiling.

"[My experience with racial profiling] reminds me that my destiny may be determined by how others perceive me," Abdul-Shakoor said. "Islam has helped me rise above. It's helped me discover where I draw pride from and where I call home."

Carty described his experience coming to terms with being homosexual and coming out to his friends and family. After coming out to his closest friends at Dartmouth, Carty said he "went to bed that night feeling the happiest and most empowered [he's] ever felt."

He described his realization that self-respect and confidence garner the respect of others. He said he has had a positive experience as a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity, which he said other members of the LGBT community at Dartmouth initially discouraged him from joining.

"I didn't want to be the gay kid,'" Carty said. "That's a stereotype that we really need to break. Being gay is not a personality. Sexual orientation shouldn't completely define who you are."

Carty said that he admires individuals who are open about their sexual orientation when they come to Dartmouth. , and stressed that students should not be forced into stereotypes based on preconceived notions of what being gay means.

Spellmire recalled the challenges he faced moving to the East Coast from his home on a rural farm in southwest Ohio. When Spellmire arrived at Dartmouth, he said he anticipated that the East Coast would reflect a "Fitzgerald-induced mystique" of privilege and "lofty ideals."

"For a while I reveled in being able to jump back and forth between two worlds," Spellmire said. "But the longer I was at Dartmouth, the weirder it became to come home."

He recounted when he was picked up by his father at a bus stop after arriving home from college and found a swarm of army worms a type of insect blocking the road.

"All I could think about was that yesterday I was cursing the Hop line," he said.

This dichotomy came to a head when Spellmire's father was seriously injured working on the farm while Spellmire was enjoying a "blissful" sophomore summer.

"I felt responsible, because that was my job," Spellmire said. "I should have been on top of the haystack. I had no more respect for myself at that point than for kids who drink themselves through Dartmouth on their parent's money."

Sanabria spoke about the adversity he faced growing up as the son of Salvadoran immigrants in crime-ridden south central Los Angeles. He said one of his earliest memories is of his mother being beaten up and mugged in his neighborhood on her way to church. At school, he said, he was teased for "acting white" because of his good grades and different way of talking.

"It's frustrating being in an overly privileged environment that breeds this mentality of entitlement," Sanabria said. "In L.A., only one out of two black and Latino students graduate from high school. This has only reaffirmed my convictions of social justice."

Alexander discussed his struggle with national identity, recounting his difficulties determining what national heritage and citizenship he should be identified with. As a freshman, Alexander said he shied away from divulging his complicated ethnic history. Born in the United States to Cuban and American parents, Alexander grew up in Australia and lived in Singapore during high school.

Alex Chan '10, who organized the event and introduced the speakers, said in an interview with The Dartmouth that he wanted the panel to challenge students to get to know the people around them.

"My hope is that this will charge students to want to address the issues that are raised," Chan said. "There's a lot that students don't necessarily talk about with each other."