In Search of Belonging

"As a queer Black cisgender man, I know all too well what it means to feel invisible, forgotten, and uncared for."

Like most people, I have spent so much of my life in search of community and a sense of belonging. Spaces where I felt safe, secure, and could be my authentic self. I believe, no matter how many privileged identities you hold, we all are in search of belonging.

It is one of the things that makes us human. However, there are many people, who come from marginalized backgrounds, who find is extremely difficult to find it.

As a queer Black cisgender man, I know all too well what it means to feel invisible, forgotten, and uncared for.

With my intersecting identities, I have experienced these things in all black spaces, white spaces, and even white gay spaces. I’m not just talking about people who did not say hello or acknowledge my presence in a space. In reality, people have literally ignored my experiences and denied them as real. As a result, I lacked self-confidence and self-love.

I developed an unhealthy reliance on others to make feel wanted, appreciated, accepted.

Through this, I learned two important life lessons:

  • One, I cannot wait for others to make me feel like I belong. I had to make that space for myself. I had to look inward for the confidence I needed to show up authentically and unapologetically. I had to practice some serious self-love, because if I loved myself and loved what I saw looking back at me in the mirror—I would be better prepared to face the world that may not see me the same way.

  • Two, I had to use my own experiences and privilege to help others find belonging. Now, just in case belonging is not being served, I bring my own where ever I go and some extra to share!

Cornell F. Woodson earned his B.S. from Ithaca College. After teaching high school English in Atlanta, he went on to earn his masters in higher education and student affairs administration with an emphasis on social justice from the University of Vermont in 2013. Cornell has spent his career in education working with underrepresented groups and developing social justice initiatives to engage communities in tough conversations about the social issues that impact our society.

In 2015 Cornell founded Brave Trainings LLC, a social justice consulting firm. He has traveled around the country working with higher ed. institutions, non-profit, and for-profit organizations on their inclusion efforts. Cornell believes that authentic dialogue, reflection on our identities, an understanding of our history, and direct and consistent action are key to creating a more inclusive environment. He's currently the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Looker.


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© 2020 by Dr. Brandon Barile

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