One of the songs I constantly heard growing up at graduations is “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye” by Boyz II Men followed by “The End of the Road”. Although this is technically a love song, it is always relevant to the occasion. What’s the occasion this time you may ask? Well, I have reached the end of the road (pun intended) of my internship here at the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston, MA.
I would’ve never thought that the road from high school graduation to college would have led me here. When I graduated high school, I just knew for sure that I was going to go into business and everything was going to be fine. Because what’s more promising than a business degree right? Even though it may have been very promising, it was not very fulfilling. Somehow on my road to success I took a left turn, leading me down the wrong path for MY success. Getting into fender benders with my grade each semester until I finally crashed and my GPA completed totaled way below a 3.0. All because I was afraid that my true passion wasn’t going to lead me anywhere.
It wasn’t until December of last year when I said “Enough is enough girl. You are a child of The Creator, anything you want you will have.” the power of manifestation. So as soon as Spring semester of 2017 started, I switched. That is when I changed the direction of my destination, I was determined to get to the me I needed to be. Fast forward a month or so later and I applied for over ten internships under the Greening Youth Foundation HBCUI (Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internships) site. I was SO anxious and paranoid about not getting a call back. But sometime in March I got a call from Jordan Clark, who gave me my first interview. From there he had faith in me that I would surely get and internship and any site would be lucky to have me. Weeks passed by and that didn’t seem to be the case, I called him nearly every week after the deadline to see if something was available and he kept trying for me. Eventually I was placed under Jamila Jackson, to which immediately positions were open. I had got two emails from two sites: one in Boston and one in San Francisco. The first phone interview I had was with Chris Beagan and Eliot Foulds (my bosses now) and after it my heart was set. I didn’t want to even interview with the other site I KNEW that/this is where I wanted to be.
For the next month or so I prayed and prayed like a delinquent in Catholics school given 100 “Hail Mary’s” for the internship. When I got the email that I was selected and the dates I would start, I immediately set out my goals for the internship: impress and market myself and Savannah State University. May came around and I was preparing myself for this big change, I felt like I was so ready and excited to start little did I know that I was going to be faced with some of the most life altering challenges in all my 20 (then 19) years of life.
When I got on the plane, I immediately felt home sick and wanted to turn all the way back around. “What was I doing? What was I THINKING?! Going to a whole state where I know NO ONE and trying to live there for 3 months?! Was I insane?!” As soon as I landed I called my mom and aunt and told them how I felt I made a mistake in taking such a big jump for my first internship and I didn’t know how I would survive (drama queen per-usual). They both reassured me that if it wasn’t for me that I wouldn’t be there. Also, anything that challenges you, is meant to help you grow. I took these words and pushed forward.
My first day in the office I was nervous as all get out, just like where I was staying, I saw no people of color except for at the front desk. I was honestly EXTREMELY worried about passive judgement, not being able to relate and most of all not enjoying it. But remember earlier when I said “power of manifestation”? The words my aunt and mom gave me pushed through my negative thoughts and I was able to enjoy and see that my colleagues were nothing close to the negative thoughts I had.
The third week of my internship, we all took a trip to Cape Cod. I endured things on that trip I NEVER would have done on my own. On that trip I met a follow HBCUI intern, Finola Perry and she became the Netty to my Celie (Color Purple reference). I hiked for the very first time, on SAND DUNES, I went into fresh pond water, I did OUTSIDE work (not an outside person) and I touched bugs. I, Dejanerra Tina-Imon Mugford, touched BUGS. Like I said, I did things that I NEVER would have done on my own but I am so happy I did them.
Another big and life embarking trip for me was my site visit to Dorchester County, Maryland. I had never been to Maryland a day in my life so to see it was amazing. When I got there Eliot, Jen and I went to the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. That was an experience of its own, to actually do real deal archival research had my history fetish going insane. To pull and see files from the 1930’s to now and to how people planned and recorded things was just SO fascinating to me. I felt so privileged and official to even be in there.
When I actually saw my site, where Harriet Tubman was enslaved was bittersweet. I got to see the harsh and disgusting conditions my ancestors had to work with but also the same disgusting and harsh conditions of which drove them to seek freedom. It made me ten times more appreciative to even be where I am today because without their persistence, an internship wouldn’t even be in arms reach of me. But I believe the most altering part of this trip that was pertinent to my career path was a meeting with Bill Jarmon, a long time Cambridge resident. When he explained to me the city’s consistent economic conditions, it truly showed me that there maybe an up side to gentrification that won’t put people out of their homes.
Aside from my trips I had a chance to network myself with some of the many programs the Olmsted Center holds. My first point of target was the African American History floor within our building. I did a tour and event with them that I loved and really showed me the main reason why I chose Africana Studies: to tell the truth about Black history. Another program I got to chime in on is their Branching Out program, which reaches to high school studies who are interested in nature and doing things with it that they wouldn’t be able to in high school. The thing I loved most and saw about his program is that it was very diverse. It had teens of all backgrounds there working together all doing something that they collectively are interested in. Which is something I hope to do in my career.
Overall HBCUI and OCLP have helped see my goals a little bit more clearly now. Career wise: my goals is to give back to my community. HBCUI and OCLP have done both. HBCUI give these internships to young black adults like myself with tongue twister names but yet very deserving of this experience. My colleagues/bosses at OCLP showed me that it was okay to ask for help and to network with people around you as much as possible because you never know who you might meet.
Personal Goals: I personally want to thank all of my OCLP family for allowing me to be me. Allowing me to speak my mind freely without any judgement but instead listened with genuine and sincere understanding of my views on things. Also for not pacifying me and giving me room to grow my work experience.
I want to thank HBCUI as well for showing me that it is okay to reach for more and to have standards with where I am going and to never second guess myself.
“It is so hard to say goodbye” to my Olmsted Center family, I truly “do not know where this road is going to lead”. But I do know all that you have taught me and gave to me should lead me somewhere worth cherishing.
As for HBCUI, this isn’t “the end of the road” for us. I plan on working with you guys further on in the future with more than just internships. Thank you for helping me reach my goal of Sankofa.
Thank you both for turning the Girl II Woman.