Kamren Rollins finds brotherhood of intellectuals at MorehouseDate Released: June 23, 2018
By Add Seymour
It only took Kamren Rollins one day to realize he was in a very different place.
It was during his first or second day as a freshman at Morehouse College when he was walking across campus and came upon a group of young, black males.
The group was gathered around each other, intensely in conversation.
Where Rollins is from—the heart of the non-gentrified areas of Washington, D.C.—a group of black males gathered in intense dialogue normally would mean nothing good and likely something very bad would soon pop off.
But as Rollins moved closer, he saw that at Morehouse, that kind of meeting had a very different meaning.
“When I got close enough, I realized they were debating,” Rollins said. “They weren’t debating as in having an argument. They were actually debating a topic of substance. And they were doing it in a way that respected one another. That wasn’t something that I was used to.
“I wasn’t used to seeing a bunch of young, black men in suits,” he remembered. “But seeing them have a discussion, properly orating… They were speaking with confidence, but not speaking to belittle anyone else. I was in awe. From that moment, I’m like, ‘I’m in a space that’s different than any I’ve ever been in before.’”
Now, four years later, Rollins helped lead those same debates and discussions as 2017-2018 president of the Morehouse College Student Government Association.
“[Recently] I was walking on campus, and I saw a couple of my brothers,” Rollins said. “I walked over and shook hands. And the conversation ended up going on for four hours. We were debating. We were discussing topics—like equality or misogyny, or everything related to the black man, the black woman, where we must go, where we are, and what we must do. When I left, I was reflecting and almost shed a tear because I knew that this won’t be able to happen anymore as it would in this space.”
That Morehouse journey wasn’t one Rollins had ever expected to make.
In Washington, D.C., Rollins’ early life consisted of his family moving around to different parts of the nation’s capital, such as hard-scrabble Southeast areas like Anacostia. Rollins’ father was in and out of jail most of his childhood, though Rollins said his father’s trials and tribulations have been a good lesson for him. But that left Rollins’ mother and grandmother to guide Rollins and his siblings.
His mother and grandmother stressed education and excellence as being the path to a better life.
“They really implemented the idea of not just being a man, but being a man of excellence,” he said.“They always pushed me to be the best that I could be, no matter what my dreams were. They always said they didn’t care if I were going to be a trashman, I was going to be the best trashman there is. And that’s what I grew up on. That’s why it was so beautiful coming to Morehouse because it has been those same ideas.
“But with the absence of a father, especially for a young man growing up in a city like D.C., I saw where I could go and where I wanted to go,” he said. “It was always this weird dichotomy in trying to find out where exactly I would fit. I always wanted to better myself. But I could always see how my circumstances almost forced me to have a rough journey.”
When it came time for college, Rollins thought about local institutions like Howard University. He knew nothing about Morehouse until an advisor told Rollins that he reminded them of what a Morehouse Man would be. Rollins wondered just what that meant, so he researched Morehouse, the College’s esteemed graduates (such as Howard’s first African American president, 1911 Morehouse graduate Mordecai Wyatt Johnson), and he realized Morehouse was the place for him.
Since then, Rollins’ Morehouse journey has been enriched by mentors such as Maurice Washington, the interim vice president of Student Development and Kevin Booker ’90, associate dean of Student Services.
“I met all of these great men who were dedicated to my success, as well as alums,” Rollins said. “I’ve been grateful for that as well, because I didn’t always have that growing up—men that I could just aspire to be like and men who didn’t have a problem at any time checking you. But checking you so you can grow and be better than they were.”
Just as important were his Morehouse brothers, who have provided him lessons in brotherhood, love and support.
“I’ve been able to gain so much from my brothers,” he said. “I’ve been taught so much. Growing up in certain spaces, I didn’t even know black people, especially black men, were we could genuinely love
each other and want the best for each other. And to be able to be taught by one another, to be able to critique one another, to be able to be pushed and developed in our best selves, is a gift that I can’t even begin to pay back. That’s why I’ve been so dedicated to this institution because it bears some of the best fruits you’ll ever see.”
That’s one of the main reasons that Rollins has been so involved in student government. The Morehouse lessons in service and leadership mean giving back to his brothers, the institution that he loves, and to the community at large.
“I got into the mindset of sacrifice and a mindset of service and seeing how I’m going to impact any space that I’m in,” Rollins said.“It’s not just enough to be present. It takes a lot to be seated at the table, but once you’re seated at the table, it’s like what are you going to be doing at the table? What impact am I going to make. So that’s what I’ve been committed to doing and that’s from me at times not having the most and wanting more and wanting to give more to others.
“That’s played a huge role in my leadership at Morehouse.”
Rollins, an English major with a minor in Latin American studies, was offered a position with LinkedIn after graduation. He is considering going to graduate school to continue his studies in English and potentially earn a doctorate in African American studies.
His mother, a professor at Washington’s Trinity University, is working on a doctoral degree. (“She’s the epitome of excellence,” Rollins said.) Four of his siblings have also attended college. His sister is graduating from Hampton University this year.
And his father is someone Rollins thanks for helping him become the young man he is today.
He also thanks Morehouse for being a place he could just be Kamron Rollins, college student.
“It’s been life changing,” Rollins said. “The interesting thing is I can recall the young man who stepped into Morehouse. It’s amazing to see who I have become. I’m just so grateful for this place and this institution.”
Last Modified: June 23, 2018, 16:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton