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Black Men's College Days

The name is Karl Guillaume. I'm a young Haitian man living near the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Life for black folks in America is tough but some of us do have it good. I'm happy to say that I am one of the lucky few. I am thankful for being the son of James Guillaume, one of the most prominent Haitian-American lawyers and politicians in the state of Massachusetts. My father worked for a civil litigation firm for two decades before venturing into politics. He's now a member of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives. As for my mother, Estelle Joseph Guillaume, she's the Provost of Randolph University in Randolph, Massachusetts. It's a school which I attend.

I live in a nice mansion in Randolph with my family. My older brother, Lawrence Guillaume, is currently majoring in civil engineering at Boston College. My sister, Annabelle Nicolette Guillaume is an award-winning reporter for a local television news program. Yes, we're a black family that does well for itself. Lots of hard work and dedication placed us in a plush white neighborhood. We routinely meet the wealthiest men and women from the local political and business elite. In fact, some of them number among our friends and quite a few number among our enemies. Such is the life of a member of the Guillaume household.

As the youngest son of the family, I've had a tough life. My parents didn't coddle me. No way. They're strict disciplinarians. I love my family, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I want to get the hell away from them. Attending Randolph University wasn't my idea. However, it was the first school to accept me and the only one to offer me an athletic scholarship. Randolph University was created when the MacLeod Technical Institute of Randolph merged with the nearby Saint Catherine School, an all-female private educational institution. This happened in 1991. Seventeen years later, Randolph University was considered one of the best schools in all of Massachusetts and one of the most prominent universities in all of New England.

Randolph University occupies eight acres of land and is located in downtown Randolph. Right around the area called Randolph Square. Not far from Randolph High School and between the Public Library and the Pantheon Restaurant. The school has ten thousand students and most of them come from surrounding towns in Massachusetts. I wanted to attend a southern school like Georgia Tech or Morehouse College but my parents had their minds set on Randolph University. I'd be living close to home and they figured that would be best for me. As I usually did, I swallowed my pride and did as I was told. I attended Milton Academy and I was a member of the Football team. When I graduated, I was considered one of the best prospective linemen around the country. As a six-foot-two, 230-pound black football stud, I had my pick of schools to choose from. Georgia Tech came calling, as did Boston College, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State and UMass-Amherst. My parents chose Randolph University, which wasn't even on my list.

At first glance, Randolph University didn't look like much. The school owned twelve dormitory buildings in the downtown Randolph area and they could house three hundred students each. Most of the students were commuters. The school was quite expensive, too. Thirty grand a year, including room and board, if you applied on time. Commuters paid about twenty seven thousand. I was not going to school for free. Randolph University's Department of Athletics treated student-athletes as if they were property rather than human beings. Someone ought to tell them that slavery has been outlawed since the late 1800s. I swear, if the media knew how they treated us, there would be an outcry. Or maybe there wouldn't be. According to the school administrators, us student-athletes had it easy and shouldn't complain. In fact, we should all just play and keep our mouths shut.

I can understand how someone might get the impression that Randolph University student-athletes had it easy. We were considered to be the athletic powerhouse of the nation. For a school which didn't exist until the early 1990s, Randolph University had decidedly come a long way, both athletically and academically. We had recently joined the NCAA Division One. The Randolph University Department of Athletics sponsors Men's Intercollegiate Baseball, Lacrosse, Basketball, Football, Rugby, Cross Country, Swimming, Water Polo, Rifle, Volleyball, Wrestling, Soccer, Gymnastics, Fencing, Tennis, Golf and Ice Hockey. For female student-athletes, they offer Women's Intercollegiate Softball, Lacrosse, Basketball, Rugby, Field Hockey, Cross Country, Rifle, Volleyball, Swimming , Water Polo, Wrestling, Soccer, Gymnastics, Fencing, Tennis, Golf and Ice Hockey.

At a time when many colleges and universities were shrinking their varsity sports teams due to either financial constraints or Title IX restrictions, Randolph University believed in bulking up. And bulk up they did. Unfortunately, they also treated sportsmen and sportswomen like beasts of burden. They told us that they only did so because of fear of reprisal from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Apparently, if even one student-athlete violated certain rules, an entire athletic program could be fine or penalized. The NCAA was not the most flexible organization in the history of American athleticism. Fear of reprisal made most colleges and universities walk a very fine line. I don't blame the school for watching its back. However, I think some really unscrupulous individuals took advantage of the paranoia and uncertainty that fills intercollegiate sports in America to seize power and use it to abuse others. That's just my two cents of the matter. An insider's take on the whole thing, if you will.

Yeah, life was tough for me. I mean, between the sky-high expectations of my overachieving parents and the daily hell of school, I wasn't having a good time. And listening to older folks telling me that young black men like myself who were in college had it easy certainly wasn't making me feel any better. People never stop to think that even those whose lives seem perfect have their ups and downs. For four years, I went to class and also played football. That's all I did. I wasn't chasing chicks all over the place. I stayed out of trouble. While my friends and teammates were having a good time partying and hooking up with very willing women, I was hitting the books and working out in the gym. By the time I graduated, I looked buff enough to be either a professional bodybuilder or a male model for muscle magazines.

When graduation day came, I was smiling from ear to ear. I graduated with honors in the Criminal Justice program. I then went to Suffolk Law School. I want to be a lawyer. To the shock of my parents, I moved out. They wanted me to stay. They claimed it was because they cared. I thought it was because they wanted to control me. I love my folks but I also needed my freedom. I moved into an apartment in Boston and busied myself with law school and also the fun and heartache of dating. Life was good. And I was finally in control of my destiny. The way every man should.
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