MEET THE FREEDOM SCHOOL TEAM: Dominique DeBose

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Meet Dominique D.

Senior//University of Virginia//Servant Leader Intern

Full Name

Dominique Anastasia DeBose

Rap Name

Midnight Menace

City of Birth

Hampton, VA (but technically/literally was born in Newport News hospital)

Favorite Food to Cook

Brie crescents/ any type of bread and brie dish

Least Favorite Snack

Any kind of nut mix (but I can survive it with a lot of chocolate though)

The Last Song That Made You Cry

Have Mercy- Eryn Allen Kane; first her voice is literally like a soulful angel, but I think what hit me hardest is in the bridge she sings "have mercy" repeatedly over and descends down the scale and you can just hear the passion in her voice and she kinda grunts and it gives this gospel vibe. But the combination of the phrase "have mercy" with her technique literally brought tears to my eyes; it's like a lamenting song and I'm just not used to listening to lament ANDDDDD it's just a low-key song that's low-key negro spiritual; it's just a whole vibe-- the snaps, the key, the harmony, the lyricssss.

What Were You Like in Middle School?

I think I was pretty confident middle schooler. I tried to be friends with everyone, even lower and upper class ( it was a very small school). I was probably definitely annoying. I talked a lot, though I only got in trouble once, and that was for laughing too much in class lol. A lot of the boys in my grade liked me, but I really didn't care for most of them.

I went to a predominantly white school anddd there was like 6 Black kids out of 30 in my grade... so I was mostly listening to Fall Out Boy and Chris Tomlin and everyone thought it would be funny to point that out, question my identity, and call me Oreo or the "whitest black girl they knew". But I wore box braids a lot so, balance. I was pretty well behaved because I was not about to have my Air Force dad be disappointed in me. I did volleyball in 6th and 7th, cheerleading in 7th, and played soccer in 8th grade... and on Varsity too, so, ya know. I could run a 7 minute mile back then too (sighs).

I took violin lessons after school as well and sung on our worship team from like 7th to 10th grade. All throughout middle school, I wanted to take Spanish soooo bad, but it wasn't offered until 9th grade. I remember loathing the upper class-men and thinking how ungrateful they were with their privilege lol. I don’t know when I started to get into world/global/cultural things, but it was probably around middle school... just as I was getting out my Tinker Bell phase.

Okay I think that's enough. 

Name of a Book/Story That Made An Impact On You When You Were Younger

So, confession: I never liked reading as a kid.

I think for my attention span and ability to focus, something really has to be interesting and motivating. And even till this day, I'd much rather spend time outside or with friends than sitting and reading. But out of the like 20 books I've probably ever read in my entire childhood, I will honestly and confidently say Ida B, by Katherine Hannigan. My main takeaway is that I remember it being a read I could identify with. The character was around the same age as me and she was weird and quirky and loved nature and there was something about eating dish soap and I distinctly remember reading it laughing. I imagined her as a white girl. But still, this book was the book that made want to read a little more.

It's a children's book, but it definitely chronicles the life and story of this young girl dealing with changes in her life and dealing with hardships and how she processed and adjusted and developed. It was fun, it was sad, it was just so realistic. And somehow, with that. it showed my little 5th grade self what it looked to be imaginative and adventurous and brave. It was one of the first books I read on my own... I actually think I chose it because I liked the cover too. But I think it speaks to the impact of having an identifiable character, especially at an age where the books in school didn't give me any black characters.

I think more people/children/young adults should it read because it's so simple. There's not a lot of complexities and need for underlying analysis, it's literally just so relatable to a lot the experiences of a child. There was fear, happiness, solitude. It's an overall human book. But definitely expressed through the eyes of a comical and honest 9 year old.

Freedom Is…

…the type of relieving feeling you get when you realize you're not bound by other people's expectations. It's a state of being living with no limitations. The ability to fully express and live well inside your context with contentment. There's definitely political definitions, social, personal, spiritual ones. It's a lot. But I definitely lean towards the first.

Freedom is both internal and external. You have to strive for both, but the internal, for me, has come with epiphanies and realizations. For lent, I said I'm giving up all negative vibes and self-doubt and that has been liberating. There still negativity and doubt, of course, but knowing that I don't have to live by that or even engage with that is what is freeing. 

What Excites You About Our Freedom School Program?

I'm most excited about doing art and incorporating that into my time with the kids. I love that The Listening focuses on the arts and advocacy and I think it's extremely important that young students are exposed to this especially in their education. I sense that with the mission of the organization, there will definitely be freedom of creativity in the program/classroom. I have always been interested in the power of art and social justice (side note: my thesis is on Russian music censorship) so, I am realllllly excited to use painting and dance and song to touch on some deep topics and connect with the students but also to just have fun.

If you had a room full of people willing to listen to you, what would you say?

I would say to have fun. I know that's soooo lame, of course, I have fun. But no, like actually set aside time to have fun. Having fun, isn't always just a happenstance random series of events that last 4 hours at the end of your day. Plan it. Reserve it. Tend to it. Life is serious, but it's also not that serious. And I think often times, we make it more serious than it needs to be.

This, of course, is coming from a 21 year old college student, so I definitely have my fair share of responsibilities, but honestly, experiences with friends and family and neighbors have taught me sooo much more than school ever will. And those were times in which I had the most fun.

Get outside. Go play. Stop doing things because you think you have to and find a way to do what you actually want. Life is supposed to be enjoyed. And work can be joyful, work can be fun, work can be playful and vice versa. Hard work is mandatory, and you're not gonna get anywhere without them, but I think everyone knows that. Everyone know to work hard. Everyone knows to struggle and sweat, but does everyone know it's okay to have fun too. Studying is necessary, but sometimes the late nights with your friends drinking wine and playing music, is worth the sacrifice of getting a B instead of an A. Cause in the end, the most long-lasting things will be the relationships with the people you have, not the material things you worked hard to buy. So, what about working hard at relationships? What about working hard at fun?