As told to Corey Townsend
Hailing from Pennsylvania, via Haiti, Jacob Bellevue is a freshman studying television and film at Howard University. In 1996, his parents emigrated to America for a family emergency and stayed so they could provide the best life possible for Jacob and his sisters. During the pandemic, the 18-year-old has been on a journey to ensure he is determined in the way he presents himself to those he loves.
I am a first generation Haitian American, so education has always been an important part of my upbringing. Knowing this, I knew I had to attend the best university, so in eighth grade, I decided I wanted to attend Howard University. The pandemic almost snatched this dream from me because I became nonchalant with my studies and lost my general motivation to complete my tasks.
Due to my perceived lack of effort, I thought dating Howard was out of reach. I was ready to take my “L” and aim for other schools in my area. Again, being a child of immigrants, failure was not an option and education was a must. Even as I applied to local colleges, there was still some semblance of hope that Howard was my destiny. I paused from scrolling on TikTok and checked my emails randomly, and there was acceptance that I thought I was never going to see. Howard University emailed me to welcome me to the Class of 2025. A dream I had had since eighth grade came true and life had meaning again.
After arriving on campus, I felt my identity constantly reaffirmed. Howard was the Mecca of all things black. Growing up, I was always surrounded by people who looked like me and never questioned my identity, but there was something about attending an HBCU that felt like a “spiritual baptism in the dark.” Meeting black people from diverse backgrounds, knowing that we are all here to succeed, continues to be a constant source of inspiration for me. It makes me feel like I can do better and be better. My friends are a melting pot of excellence; the tastes that fuel my creativity to keep flowing.
I’m majoring in television and film because I never grew up seeing stories I’ve told displayed on my screen. I’ve always been bombarded with the same stereotypical images and wanted to be part of something that continues to change that narrative. I’m tired of seeing cliché stories that are constantly fed to us. We are not a monolith. We have a range of experiences that deserve to be at the forefront of what we see on TV and in movies. There is no easy way to tell our stories. I want to continue the work that artists like Issa Rae, Spike Lee and Jordan Peele started. They are my idols, and the people I feel “get it” when it comes to telling black stories. They remind me that there is authenticity in everyone’s black experience.
Going to college during a pandemic was an interesting experience, to say the least. During that time, I learned to roll with the punches and adapt to the current climate. I find it annoying when I hear, “You’re missing out on the college experience,” because I feel like that’s an ingrained belief in projection based on someone’s lived experiences. other. I believe we need to let go of what we knew was the “norm” and move forward with a new way of thinking. If we don’t, I believe that we will never be able to grow and really enjoy the moments that are given to us. So, no, I’m not missing the college experience. I make my own and make the most of the cards that have been dealt to me.
Overall, I just want to be around people who make me happy. When I was in high school I was learning about life, now that I’m in college I’m learning, and one day I hope to apply those lessons to become the man I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid.