For Us by Us: The Untold Stories of People of Color on Campus
NEW YORK CITY: SUMMER 2010
Judiana Moise ’20 was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and moved to New York when she was 12. After spending a year in New York, she moved to Rhode Island. In an interview with the Justice, Moise said, “I moved to Mount Vernon and I believe it was right next to the Bronx. I don’t remember exactly, but I just know I was in the ’hood. One park and a lot of tall buildings. New York is different; there’s more of your people. Everyone looks the same, everybody’s Black. Later on you look further in and then you’re like ‘Oh he’s Haitian, oh he’s Jamaican.’ It felt like home but then I moved to Rhode Island and it was tough. I was in North Providence first, which was super white and the middle school was also really white. It was bad. I was crying every day. I was also tall and shy, so I just stayed quiet. Then I moved to Pawtucket, which is where I live now. Everything was a shock. I wanted to go back to Haiti for a long time, but I haven’t been to Haiti since then.”
Arlett Marquez: How was your life in Haiti?
Judiana Moise: My parents were separated, so I always experienced two different sides of the family story. On one side you have time with your mom, but you knew that would end and you would have to go with your dad. I lived with my father more. I was with my father because it’s just different in Haiti. He was a man and he had more authority, had more money and he wanted his children. And the law agreed. I have five siblings but I don’t have a lot of contact with them at this moment except for my little brother. If we are thinking about it in a U.S. context, I would have been considered middle class. I was in a private school. It was hard coming here because I was used to a certain way of living.
AM: How has Brandeis been?
JM: I really have nothing to say about Brandeis specifically, I just think that being in college in the United States is weird in general. In terms of scholarship and people, I learned that what I thought I knew about people isn’t always true. Brandeis is just awkward and there’s this quietness about it. Sometimes I like the quiet, though, because I know how to be alone. Sometimes people won’t see me for a few days and they ask where I’ve been, but it’s so normal for me. The institution alone is different because back home I would have probably gone to an all-girls school. I would have probably studied to be a secretary or something. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this environment. To me, it’s a task and I’m here to get it done. I realize I experienced different shit and I think differently in terms of how I see myself being on this campus. I know this is not it for me. I don’t know what it is, but I know school alone is not what makes me happy all the time. Crazy enough, Caribbean people look at this institution as a big thing, especially when you’re an immigrant and your children make it. My mom throws it out there every once in a while.
AM: What do you want to do after college?
JM: I don’t know. I just hope I’m happy. I would love to travel. For a long time I wanted to live in France, so if you don’t see me after this, you know where I am. I’ll probably be where all the black people are. Professionally, I would love to be in the music industry, but don’t get it twisted, I can’t sing. I definitely love the managing side of it all but saying that is different than actually accomplishing it. It’s so overwhelming, though, and a lot of pressure to have something to say. Like, why do I have to know now? Either way, we get shit done and whatever job I get in the future, I’ll know how to hustle.
AM: What sparked your interest in music?
JM: It was actually my cousin during my first year here in the summer. I did everything he did and music was one of those things. One day we were walking and he was playing the song, “I’m Me” by Lil Wayne and that’s literally when my love for hip-hop started. The song itself is an amazing song but it was something about the way he was vibing to it and the confidence he had. I remember being in school and being quiet and then looking at my cousin rapping, “I’m me, the hottest hottest under the sun,” thinking, “man, I want that confidence.” It got me interested, like, why does he have so much charisma? At that time, I would just listen to French songs. There was something about hip-hop that was pleasing and I saw that there were more Black people involved. I focused more on what was happening at that time in hip-hop but then I moved on to more of the history. I think it has to be a balance. What made me go back to the history of hip-hop was Tupac. Again it was my cousin who told me the story of Tupac and Nas and how Nas dissed Jay-Z. I asked him what “dissing” was and he said, “Oh, that’s when they talk shit and they mean it.” He showed me a lot of songs. It made me invest a lot into the history of hip-hop. This was all quietly done, I wasn’t sharing my passion for this music with anyone else except my cousin. I was able to understand America through music. Music got me out of my shell because I would talk to people who were also interested in music. American music alone taught me English. Music got me through.
AM: Why do you love music?
JM: Why do I love music? That shit just makes sense to me. I feel life without music is boring. It has so many different moods where, if you’re feeling this way or that you can find music that connects. … I had this friend who had a really big problem with me listening to American hip-hop. She would say “Why are you taking our shit? Then you go and rep Haiti when this is all I got.” I would just not know what to say because I think music is universal. You can’t own music. I would start to question myself but then I realize that I just genuinely love music. I experienced my adolescence in the United States and not Haiti. If I didn’t, I probably would be bumping some Zouk or whatever was poppin’ back in Haiti. At first, I got where she was coming from but then again, I found it really sad. I like London shit, Jamaican shit. America has Americanized Jamaican music. When you look at what they did with Bob Marley — that shit is fucked up. He’s a whole brand, they made so much money off of that guy. Promoting weed alone with Bob Marley is huge. Selling his posters, advertising and you forget that motherfucker is from Jamaica. Jamaicans can say “Oh nah he was in the streets with us,” but Americans can say the same thing.
AM: Anything else you want to say?
JM: Well first, my natural hair is prospering. On a serious note, though, you don’t really know somebody until you start talking to them. I feel like some people don’t want to do the work. Practice your small talk and you can learn so much about someone through small talk. That’s actually my advice to whoever is reading this, to whoever is in this place right now. Make sure you come in with an open heart. It’s hard, because sometimes I don’t do it but I do believe the outcome is so positive.
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