Making The Grade Series

Making The Grade Movie Pt. 1: Move In Day- Martell


“Don’t come home with any babies. Don’t come home without a degree. Stay away from them white girls.” The parting words from Martell’s parents as they hugged him goodbye to begin their five hour road trip back to Chicago from Ohio. Those words continued to echo in his mind as he began to unpack his things, reflecting on the road that has brought him to this place.  E.D.U, in the middle of nowhere Ohio,  a small liberal arts school, a drastic change from his earlier dreams of going to an HBCU. The room is not as big as he had anticipated. His room at home was significantly bigger and he didn’t have to share it. This was more like a two person jail cell, just with nicer walls and a mirror. However, he counts his blessings: his scholarship and the friends that it surrounded him with.  Reflecting and unpacking he is sees a text from Tehan, one of he people he befriended as fellow scholarship recipient.

“Where you at Bro?”

“In Shaw 202.”

“Aight, Imma about to slide through.”

At 6’2” with a slim, somewhat skinny frame, most people mistake Martell for a basketball player. In fact, during this past summer many people asked if he was going to school on a basketball scholarship.  Without irritation,  but with pride and sense of arrogance he always replied “Naw…Academic.” He wears a constant smile on his face . He is constantly being compared to Kobe Bryant and Soulja Boy, although those two people have limited physical characteristics in common to him. His rich caramel skin has been untainted by tattoos. And only recently got his ears pierced before coming to school because his mother said he had to be out of her house before he could get them.

Cleaning up his room, he begins to think of all the movies and TV shows about college starring Black people, How High, Stomp the Yard and A Different World dominate his thinking. He begins to wonder if he would have any of all the crazy encounters that he saw on TV: the Frat Parties, Greek Life, the wild and crazy white girls that want to be with a black guy for the first time.  As he fixes his TV, there is a knock at the door.

Tehan, enters the room, “What’s good bruh bruh?” his heavy tone is so distinct that Martell doesn’t even need to turn around to recognize the person.

With a 6’ slender frame that is typical for an athlete, his most dominant features are his chocolate complexion and his full beard which makes most people think he’s closer to 30 than 17. He has medium length locks that he began growing his junior year of high school, and now because of his complexion and facial features he is commonly compared to Wale. Something that irks him to the core.

“Shidd, just trying to finish getting unpacked and organize my room”

“Yo, roommate not here yet?”

“Naw, he said he should be in sometime later in the day, so I’m setting the room up like I want it first then he can just get in where he fit in.” Martell replies with a sense of sarcasm.

“What is he?” Tehan asks as he helps him mount the TV on the wall.

“He sounded like he’s white. His name is Troy from some random ass place in New York.  I don’t remember though. He sounded cool, but we’ll see.”

They began to move the bed around. With the door wide open they see a constant flow of students with their families walking up and down the hallway looking for roommates, carrying huge TVs, futons, and refrigerators.

“Damn people bringing their whole house up here huh?”

“Yeah, I just brought the TV,  he said he would would bring the frig”

“This floor is Coed?”

“Yeah, ain’t yours?

“Nah, the building is, but the floors are separated by sex. No biggie though, I can travel a few flights of stairs for some booty.” They jointly laughed

He puts the last poster on the wall: Tupac’s Only God Can Judge Me, a man who he idolizes,  “Well I’m done for the most part, what does your room look like?”

“It looks bigger than this eight by ten you living in” Tehan jests “you wanna walk around and check out the rest of the dorms?”

Grabbing his keys and locking the door Martell replies, “Yeah let’s roll.”

Walking through the dorm hallway, their 6′ solid builds take up the most of the walk space. Martell with his “Juice” cut and Tehan with his locks, the two of them together presented a unique combination of an intimidating yet, intriguing aura to many of the families and other students in the building. For many of the white students who  have had limited or no personal encounters with African Americans and who  can only pull from the media stereotypes for their perceptions of Black men, Martell and Tehan fit many some of those.

Recognizing the additional attention that they are receiving, Martell breaks the awkwardness,  “All Eyes on Me” he says in his best Tupac impersonation. “They act like they never seen Black people before”

In a returning low volume, “that’s because they haven’t, we like a national geographic to them. Don’t sweat it though.”  He says as they continue to walk down the hallway, Tehan makes a realization “Aye Jo,  are you the only Black person on this floor?”

“Hmm…” Martell responds as he stops and looks around. “I think I am. Wait. No I’m not. There is a Puerto Rican cat that’s down the hall.”

“I said black.”

“Shit, that’s close enough.”

“True” Tehan agrees as the two hit the stairway, a man carrying a refrigerator  is struggling up the stairs thus causing his face to turn red and his forehead  sweat right below his pepper colored hair. The man looks as if he’s about to tip forward when Tehana and Martell both jump to his aid.

“We got you” they say in unison

The man is immediately relieved by the assistance.  He says “thank you,” with a grunt as he works to gather himself. With the refrigerator blocking his view of the boys, they made their up the rest of the stairs.

“Room 203 if y’all can.”

“Oh that’s right across the hall from me.” Martell replies

“That’s nice, where are you guys from?”

“Chicago” their thunderous voices combined replied.

“Oh, what part? Oak Brook? Evanston? Skokie?” He inquires as he backs into the rooms with the refrigerator high upon his chest and pressed against his face he yells into the room. “Hey hun, these young men are both from Chicago and one lives across a cross hall from you,” his final words before he sits down the refrigerator and sees the two of them standing before him. He pauses, with a glossed look in his eyes of disbelief. He looks past them both as if looking for someone who wasn’t there. His daughter sees the awkward silence and interjects.

“Thanks for helping my dad with that, it would’ve sucked if he’d dropped it but, he wouldn’t let me help him. Hi my name’s Megan, what’s yours? She extends her hand to them.

“Martell” he says giving her a quick look up and down; he can’t help but crack a smile.

Standing at a petite 5’4 with blond hair, green eyes, and dimples compacted into a  dancer’s shaped body. She resembles a girl seen in most movies or television shows as nice, wholesome and from the small town, or the opposite of the mean girl, cheerleader with the banging body. Her smile was warm and sincere, her skin was smooth and Martell was infatuated with her immediately. Less than 5 seconds has passed and Tehan adds …


She continues, “So my dad mentioned that you both are from Chicago. What part?”

“Southside” Martell replies

“Westside” Tehan says

Before the conversation can continue her father regains his composure and interrupts the conversation.

“Well fellas, your assistance is no longer needed, I’m sure you have to attend practice or something?” They both look in confusion at one another and respond, “practice?”

“Yeah are you boys not both on the basketball team?” the father responds in full confidence as if he was answering a question he wasn’t supposed to know the answer to.

“Actually sir, I never picked up a basketball before in my life.” Tehan says with a straight face.

“Me either.” Martell adds and with the mannerism as he is saying a speech that he has rehearsed and performed many times on cue. He continues “Tehan and myself are both here based on our scholastic achievement, involvement in community service and other leadership capabilities that this institution of higher learning deemed us fit to attend in order to make a significant cultural, academic and social impact. But thanks for the benefit of the doubt, I always wanted to be a hooper.” And in a calm and natural response his eyes turn to Megan “Aye Megan, we’ll catch you at orientation.” They both turn and leave.

“Gosh dad, did you have to be so rude.” she retorts at her father, as he stands there stunned and confused, she rushes to the hallway to catch them. “Hey I’m sorry for my dad, he didn’t mean any harm by what he said, and he has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth a lot.”

“Don’t even trip about it, it’s cool. It’s not the first time that we have had that said to us and it certainly won’t be the last. But we gotta run, we’ll catch you on the Quad.” Says Martell as they turn back down the hall. Martell looks at him with disbelief shaking his head, “I’ve never picked up a basketball before? Nigga we played ball all day yesterday and all last week right before we came to school.”

Tehan laughs a little then stops “well you agreed with me. Did you see the look on his face? It was priceless. Why would I give him the satisfaction of knowing we both played High School ball? Besides that, shorty was bad.”

“Yeah I peeped the lil’ white joint, I see you already on it.”

“Yes sir, but you know it’s only the first day. We ain’t even hit the quad yet, she might not even the baddest on campus.”

“True, but shidd, it’s a good start”. They make their way out of the dorm on to the warm, open, beautiful, student and family filled campus.


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