This Black History Month, I am sharing 28 stories of Black women who shaped me and showed me the way towards liberation. Because Black women are often not cited for their ideas, I thought this would be one way to give flowers to those who influenced me.
On Day 4, I want to honor the memory of my friend, Andrea Wills. Andrea and I met when we were 18 freshman year at the Cornell Hotel School. Andrea and I both lived at Ujamaa Residential College on North Campus, a dorm that was focused on the history and culture of the African Diaspora. Out of 18,000 students, approximately 600 students identified as Black at the time, and “Uj” as we called it was the center of Black life in the 1990s. Both Andrea and I lived in Uj all four years we attended Cornell.
Almost every memory I have of Cornell and The Hotel School includes memories of Andrea. I remember Andrea studied hard, like the rest of us - toiling away at accounting, finance, rooms, F&B, econ and all the other classes we took. But my most vivid memories of Andrea are memories of joy. Andrea was always laughing - sometimes with you and sometimes at you when you were embodying “foolishness” as she called it. She had a thick Brooklyn accent - and the no-nonsense attitude that went along with it. I remember Andrea would do this shoulder shuffle when she danced - she would really pull the shoulders out when Stevie Wonder or “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” came on and bounce around the dance floor. She would never let you dance alone when the music came on.
Andrea was an incredibly GOOD friend. She’s the friend that always calls you on your birthday or when they’re thinking of you. She was always good about meeting up with me when she came to town or when I was in NYC. She would check in on you if you were sick, and she was the friend that would give me the updates on the lives of the rest of the Hotelie crew.
Andrea called me a few weeks after I had surgery in 2021 - I was having a hard recovery so couldn’t talk on the phone. A few weeks after she called, another friend from the Hotel School called in the middle of the work day and left a voicemail that Andrea had suddenly passed away and her funeral was happening at that moment. When I called my friend back, we both lamented that we owed Andrea a phone call. Andrea was 46 years old.
I still can’t believe that Andrea passed away. I sometimes feel guilty about the phone calls I didn’t answer. I feel incredibly grateful for the times that we got to meet up and share updates on our lives. Andrea taught me that life is short - we don’t know how long we have in this life. She taught me you can always reconnect with friends. And you should always whip out a shoulder shuffle when “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” comes on. Don’t let any of your friends dance alone. #28LoveLetterstoBlackWomen #BlackHistoryMonth2023 #Day4