Black graduates matter: turning the pain into power

Goldson poses in Jones Hall laboratory with animal cell replication 
| Photo credit: KDB. Photography

One’s ability to turn a dark reality into a source of inspiration can be his saving grace; this is true for graduating senior Kareem Goldson.

Goldson, 22, is graduating from Florida A&M University’s College of Science and Technology with a Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-medicine.

Goldson’s road to commencement was guided through scarring life experiences paired with his awareness of the glaring prejudices against blacks in America.

The son of two Caribbean immigrant parents, Goldson grew up in Miami where he witnessed his fair share of crime amongst members of his own community and even his family.

“I had a cousin who was shot. He was black, and he was involved in gang violence. I remember being picked up from elementary school and speeding to the hospital. In my head, I was thinking ‘are the doctors going to help him?’” Goldson recalled.

The graduating senior added that he was not blind to the prejudices toward black people in America. The awareness of the reality of anti-blackness was extremely unsettling for the young Goldson who wondered if the doctors were racist themselves and therefore would not tend to his cousin’s wounds.

“This initially sparked my interest in medicine. I wanted to be that black doctor to help people just like my cousin who very well could be discriminated against,” Goldson said.

The unconcealed divide among the races continued to make itself evident to Goldson throughout his secondary school years. He insisted that he made a conscious effort to not succumb to the stereotypes placed before him.

“I grew up with certain prejudices against me growing up in Miami, but I took AP (advanced placement) and gifted classes, so I was at the forefront. I always had to compete,” he said. “There were probably only about four black kids in my classes growing up. People weren’t looking for us to outperform, but it was in my best interest.”

This fiery ambition is one quality Goldson never lacked, for the will to academically outdo himself time after time was instilled in him by his mother at a very young age.

“My mom is an educator, and from a young age I was very much inspired by her ambition and will power. She started off serving at Denny’s while taking classes at Miami Dade (College). She went back to school over and over,” Goldson said. “I always knew not to stop in one place or area.”

Goldson’s mother, Annis Thornton, was also sure to teach her son of the realities he would confront as a young Black man and how to maneuver around and overcome these realities.

“His entire life, I made him understand through both literature and current events who he was and where he was,” Thornton recalled. “He is a black male in a society that marginalizes black men. I taught him that one way to beat the system is to not give in to the system. Aspire to be greater than the stereotypes.”

The 2011-2012 school year marked Goldson’s junior year of high school at Michael M. Krop High School in Miami where he became the treasurer of his class. In this same class of students was Trayvon Martin.

Martin, who was from Miami Gardens, was 17-years-old when he was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer on Feb. 26, 2012. Martin had been suspended from Krop High School in Miami where he lived with his mother, so he was using the time to visit his father in Sanford.

“I remember having to speak on behalf of my student body,” Goldson remembered. “When it came to Trayvon, I was forced to hold the torch. (Administrators) warned us to be very respectful, but we did stage a school walkout. We also held candlelight vigils and respectful demonstrations like an empowerment movement.”

Amidst the social media storm that took over countless platforms in the days following Martin’s death, Zimmerman was eventually charged and tried. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July of 2013.

“There was a whole black cloud surrounding that. I was watching the jurisdiction. It was very heartbreaking to see that they couldn’t come to a conclusion. At the end of the day, someone was killed,” Goldson claimed.

Goldson carries the death of Martin with him as a constant reminder to not falter in the face of adversity. His desire to beat the odds and live on for those whose lives, like Trayvon’s, were ended too soon beams through his unwavering, outgoing spirit.

“I’ve learned to live through the experiences of others. I can look at these tragic situations and make something positive out of it though it can seem impossible,” Goldson said.

On Dec. 16 at 9 a.m., Goldson will walk across the Alfred L. Lawson Jr. Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium stage to collect his first of many degrees. He hopes to continue on to Florida State University’s medical school program to become an emergency room surgeon.

Aaron Emanuel, Tallahassee resident and close friend to Goldson, is one of many supporters of Goldson who is confident in his potential for preeminent success.

“Kareem is a young guy that has really excelled and made it known that he is going to be the best. I really look at him and say ‘boy, you have virtue,’” Emanuel said. “For Kareem, the sky is the limit.”