To and Through College and Beyond with Calvon Jones, Pride of 2011

IMG_2276 (1)As we celebrate our tenth graduating class at KIPP GCP Pride High School, we also celebrate our founding cohorts who continue to prove what’s possible by graduating from college and graduate school and becoming change-makers in their communities.

Calvon Jones was a member of the Pride of 2011 and graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor’s degree in Religion in 2015. This May, he will complete graduate school and earn a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University’s Divinity School. We asked Calvon to reflect on his journey thus far and his plans for the future.

Q: What drew you to your graduate school program?
A: My hermeneutics are around the principles of love, acceptance, and cosmopolitism; hence I needed a place that would challenge me and enhance my ministry in those areas. I have always wanted to form a personal theology that would do more up-lifting than harm to people seeking that which is holy to them. During my senior year at Morehouse College, I had the wonderful struggle of whether to accept Harvard Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary, or Yale Divinity School. After seeking guidance from my mentors, reviewing the courses offered and the work being done by professors like Kathyrn Tanner, Nora Tisdale, and Mary Moschella, I realized that Yale Divinity School would be the most fitting place for me to grow as an emerging scholar and preacher.

Q: What is one of the most memorable experiences from your time in graduate school?
A: Music is essential for a Black man in a White space. It has always been an outlet for me. Having attended Morehouse College, a Historically Black College, all of my experiences prior to Yale were in spaces of Blackness. When I came to Yale, I had to face underlying acts of prejudice and micro-aggressions. While it troubled me significantly, a great awakening occurred. I, along with a number of students in the Yale community marched, protested, and spoke out against micro-aggressions and the institutional racism that permeated the culture of Yale. A fire ignited within me and I used the force that was close to me — music. I wrote a song, entitled, “Black Lives Matter.” I wanted to spread the message that: “I am Black. I am beautiful. I am educated. I am worth living. Black Lives do matter!”

These were the words that I repeated to myself constantly; because the reality is, I live in a country in which its system is structured to disvalue the lives of Black bodies. I knew that there were more Black students, Black persons, and people across this country who needed to hear words of hope and courage. Thus, I wanted to create a music video to challenge people to become allies; to challenge systems of oppression; and to empower Black people like me. Ultimately, I created a GoFund me page that helped me raise enough money to record the song and to pay for a professional and digital music video. You can watch the final result here.

Q: How did KIPP ENC help to prepare you for college and graduate school?
A: I can never forget KIPP ENC. I am because of KIPP ENC. I am so grateful for the teachers and staff of KIPP who taught me how to manage a significant amount of work and how to manage time. I used to complain about the work and the long hours, but I am so thankful for those days because KIPP prepared me for the workload in graduate school. At Yale, I have been challenged in a number of areas: from wrestling with strenuous hours of reading to completing the numerous writing assignments; to establishing my identity as a Black man for the first time on a fully integrated campus. I have been able to survive graduate school because of the tools and skills I received at KIPP ENC.

KIPP ENC taught me to ask for help. Professors, administrators, and staff have been so helpful: they are there when you need to talk or need to hear from others who have journeyed this path as well-but you have to know how to ask for help. KIPP ENC also taught me what it means to have community and to learn and grow in your Pride. At Yale, the community of scholars and classmates whom I have gotten to know have become my teammates and lifelines. I learned how to embrace community at KIPP, and I am eternally grateful for this.

Q: What are your plans after earning your graduate degree?
A: I am still weighing my options, but there is a high possibility that I will be an Associate Pastor at the historic Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. This church is President Barack Obama’s former church and has a church membership of about 9,000. The church is centered in social justice and the ministry’s aim is to give voice to those who have been relegated to the margins of society. I would love to work there and then possibly pastor my own church and continue my education through pursuing a PhD.

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