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Taylor Raye Curry Shares Her Story

June 2015

An Open Letter to My Alma Mater:

Spelman alumna Taylor CurryIn the 7th grade I didn’t have many friends. I was the quirky smart girl in hand-me-downs who daydreamed on the school bus, wrote short stories and read Roots far too early.  Sometime in October, my parents decided to whisk me away to Atlanta to visit my oldest sister for homecoming at her new college -- Spelman, some weird HBCU that only accepted women. I didn’t know much about it besides the fact that it was the place that stole my tennis partner, babysitter, and general chauffeur to Target when mom said she had to do so. That October changed everything.

I remember standing outside of Abby Hall and hearing some girl shout, “Hey we should order a pizza.” I was sold. Any place that would offer a young woman the dignity and autonomy of ordering a pizza whenever she wanted was the place for me. Again, I stress the fact that I was twelve. At any rate, it was at that moment that I vowed to attend Spelman College no matter what. I would apply to Spelman and only Spelman, and leave the rest up to fate.

I spent the next five years listening to my doting English teachers tell me I should go to Yale, Harvard or Princeton; my proud theater teachers suggest I attend Julliard, NYU or UCLA; and my math teachers tell me I should immediately consider a career at Burger King.  But…one Tuesday during my senior year in high school, my AP Lit class watched some random documentary based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The movie described, in detail, the British invasion of Tasmania, how they killed the small island’s inhabitants, took their land and claimed it as their own, and pillaged the entire area only to put the people’s clothes, pottery and weapons on display in their British museums.

blue-quote-leftblue-quote-rightI was the quirky smart girl in hand-me-downs who daydreamed on the school bus, wrote short stories and read Roots far too early.

I lost it, started sobbing, began looking around at my befuddled white classmates, and realized I was the only one crying. #SoUncomfortable. My teacher responded to my tears by trying to comfort me, saying, “The British are #@$#^.” I looked at her, confused, because I knew that wasn’t true. Idris Elba’s not [that], Shakespeare wasn’t [that], and Lord knows Tom Hiddleston’s fine self isn’t [that]. So I knew she was wrong. I knew the situation was far more complex than that. And I knew my next move would be to find an educational space built to address complex sociopolitical subject positions like these. And that’s when I made my decision.

Now came the hard part. Investing in a top tier, competitive, educational environment like Spelman meant I had some pretty big shoes to fill. Could I really compete with what my sisters had done? I mean, could I seriously expect to follow in their footsteps being the quirky smart girl in hand-me-downs who daydreamed on the school bus, wrote short stories, and read Roots far too early?

Unlike my polished oldest sister, I wasn’t exactly Miss Maroon and White material, and I couldn’t possibly compete with my other sister’s brand of artistic bohemian level coolness either. I could barley match the right shirt with my jeans and Sperry’s let alone compete with the ATL fashionistas who I knew went to Spelman. So what would be my thing? What on earth was I even good at doing?

Photo: Taylor Curry at Phi Beta Kappa Induction ceremony with sister April Curry Roberts, C'2009

The Road to Self Discovery

I started as a theater/psychology double major, next was history, then African Diaspora and the World, then economics, and, when I found myself reading Jane Eyre during one of my econ professor’s lectures, I switched to English -- my last and final stop. A perfect fit. I read everything I could get my hands on, and fell in love. The interdisciplinary nature of the department meant I learned everything a history, psych, or ADW major might be interested in --  elements of psychology, anthropology, linguistics, African-American studies, women’s studies, Mestiza consciousness, queer theory, Shakespearean analysis, poetry, spoken word, all of it. I loved it.

I started looking into the film programs the English department sponsored because I figured I could channel my movie obsession into something positive. I did want to make movies…someday. That day came faster than expected. One of my advisers suggested I take a documentary course at Spelman,  and after months of exhaustion, filming, editing, interviewing, and crying, I cursed the day that adviser was born, only to revoke said curse a short time later. Screening my film, "Rebel Dance" this year in front of family and friends at an art house cinema was probably one of the best experiences of my life.

In a world where women who look like me are told to shut up, sit down, and wait their turn, everything I learned at Spelman College said, “Open your mouth, stand up and get going.” I will never forget my time here. I will never forget the woman this school helped me to become, because every morning when I look in the mirror I see her staring right back at me. Standing tall where I used to slouch, confident, proud, beautiful.  Who is this woman? Who’s this woman who graduated wearing Phi Beta Kappa cords, Sigma Tau Delta cords, Golden Key Honour Society cords, Spelman Honor cords, with an Alpha Kappa Alpha stole on and a degree that says Magna Cum Laude?

Transformation Realized

Who is this woman? I have experienced four years of academic study that not only engaged me as a woman of color, it celebrated me; four years of confidence building; and four years of my character defining me, not my race or my gender. This woman is me, four years in the making, and there’s so much farther to go.   

So, to any brown girl who finds herself daydreaming on a school bus, or crying over some colonial tragedy in front of her friends, I say this -- invest in yourself because you are worth it. Invest in your intellect because you’re worth it. Invest in your inner strength because you’re worth it. Invest in your scholarship because you’re worth it. 

blue-quote-leftInvest in Spelman because from the moment it opened its doors in 1881, its purpose was to invest in you. In this space, you are not an afterthought, you are not an inconvenience, you are not some tax break quota. You are the answer to prayers you will never hear. So invest in yourself. It will pay huge

Plus, you never know. Do those other schools even have pizza?  -- Taylor Raye, Class of 2015

About Taylor Raye Curry

An Open Letter to My Alma Matter from Taylor CurryTaylor Raye Curry, C'2015, is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Spelman College.  Curry has loved and studied cinema for the past 15 years and specializes in creating films that speak to the diverse life experiences of women of color. 

After moving over fifteen times in twenty years, and attending ten different schools as the daughter of retired Naval officer and an author, Curry is accustomed to cultural, religious and regional differences, and she often invites them in with open arms. 

“I think a diversity of experiences is something of which to be truly proud,” the New England-born graduate said. “I’d like to dedicate my career to celebrating and embracing those differences, no matter how they manifest themselves.” 

In the fall, Curry will pursue her masters of fine art degree in production and directing at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Her goal is to become a director, screenwriter and actress. She ultimately desires to own her own production company in the future.

Photo from Left: Taylor Raye Curry, Spelman College, C'2015; sisters April Curry Roberts, C'2009 and  Shannon Curry, C'2011; her mother and author Casey Curry; and her father Captain Bruce Curry, USN Retired.

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