The small steps that shaped an activist

Samantha Karam

Kent State University is a campus of activists. We are reformers. We stand up for what we believe in.

This conviction is undeniable when you look at our history and current demonstrations. That same conviction brought me to this campus.

In fifth grade, I learned I was capable of changing what I don’t believe to be right, and have been trying to do so ever since. Let’s travel back to 2006: Lisa Frank notebooks fill every backpack and it is cool to get banned from Club Penguin for using curse words.

My classmates swarm the blacktop like flies going at a discarded popsicle. Even though it is Friday, with the weekend in sight, I am not as enthusiastic because I know the task ahead of me.

The parking lot, which doubles as our playground, is split in half by a row of cones I choose to challenge every day. Girls play on the left, with the jump ropes and hopscotch. Boys play on the right, with the dodge balls and flag football. That’s how recess was at Saint Brendan Elementary School. 

Mrs. Crowley, the recess supervisor patrols the cones, making sure we stay on our sides. She is very proud of her job, so I have to be smart with how I sneak past her.

I notice some girls chatting near the cones. I stand with them and wait for Crowley to walk past. Then I bolt to the football game across the lot, where I’m accepted without hesitation. After all, I am on the school’s team and known for my speed.

I take position behind the quarterback and the game is back on. He passes the ball to me and I am off. I swerve through gaps of bodies, until I see nothing but open blacktop in front of me. I cross the touchdown marker and turn to see my team jumping with excitement. 

The breeze brushes against my cheeks and I feel like I am standing on top of a mountain. 

“Girls, stay on the other side!” 

I see Crowley running toward me. 

“You still can’t follow the rules,” she said. “Now, you know where you go.”

I pass the ball to one of the boys and proudly take my place on the stoop. Showing my opponents the strong running back I am is worth the sacrifice.

Later that afternoon, in the middle of math class, I am called into the principal’s office and asked why Crowley was complaining about my behavior. 

Rather than slumping in acceptance, I sit up and state my claim:

“Don’t separate recess anymore.”

I explain not all girls like hopscotch and not all boys like football. It’s not right that I can’t play during recess just because I’m a girl. The principal says nothing, just dismisses me.

I never receive any follow up.

Monday, I make my way from the cafeteria to the blacktop as usual. Only this time something beautiful is waiting for me. I squint past the sunlight and sigh with relief.

The cones are gone. 

Samantha Karam is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].