An Open Letter to Papa Q

Authored By:

College Study Abroad

Dear Papa Q,

Since I met you one year ago, my life has not been the same. It has been a year since you came into my life and it hasn’t been the same. Last week I spoke with some of the fellows about impact on us individually and collectively as Frederick Douglass Global Scholars.

To be candid, before I got to London, the name Quinton Redcliffe was merely a signature to few emails in my inbox. I didn’t know it at the time, but that name would soon be synonymous with South African jewels like Nelson Mandela and the Cape of Good Hope.

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As our professor, you flawlessly merged the roles of professor, benevolent father, guidance counselor, guru and whatever else we needed you to be. We knew that it wasn’t easy for you to leave behind your wife, two children and dog to be our professor, our Papa Q. Nonetheless, you did it with grace, humility and joy in your heart. You embraced us as if we were your blood, adopting us as your sons and daughters for a month abroad.

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I did not initially understand what I would be learning in our “Intercultural Communications and Leadership” class. In my mind, I was already a tolerant, understanding, and communicative person who could get along with people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Convinced that my hard work scholastically and within my community had finally been rewarded with a vacation to London, I was certain that the class would be a fluff. I thought that my days would be spent sipping British tea, eating fish and chips, and driving on the left side of the street. There wasn’t even a difference in language, I’d have no difficulties, I’d face no challenges. However, that could not have been farther from the truth.

It took you, Papa Q, a colored man from South Africa to put us all on an intellectual and spiritual level that we had never experienced. You challenged us on paper and in life to reflect, embrace, and make the most out of every moment.

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“Let’s unpack that.”

Those three words showed us how much you cared to expand our minds, to give us the freedom that we needed and to know where our heads were at daily. You cared about our cohesive learning experience. Just as much as you were teaching us, you were learning from us too.

You were the glue that band us together as a family. We created a bond, a circle of truth and vulnerability with you at its center pulling us together. You helped us see each other, hear each other, learn from each other truths. In hindsight we found bits of ourselves in each other and in London that we hadn’t known. It was almost like meeting ourselves for the first time. 

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I started off this letter by saying that my life hasn’t been the same since I met you, but the reality is that none of our lives have been the same. We’re more intentional leaders, intellectually curious, culturally empathetic, tolerant because of you.

Most importantly, you gave hope for the world.

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Meghan describes you as the embodiment of a hug. An embrace that brings you in, somewhere that you want to be that makes you feel loved and safe. She says that being in your company is the kind of comfort that she wants others to feel. She’s always had a way with words, but I agree wholeheartedly.

Brennan says he can’t wait for you to meet his dad, so he can see the man that fathered him for a month.

Kia says keep reaching people the way that you reached us, and she’ll see you in Cape Town next summer.

I can’t wait until my son meets you and can take in your spirit, it's something that can’t be replicated even when I try.

Thanks Pops for all that have done, are doing, and will do. You’re a light that the world needs. We love you, miss you, and we will see you soon.

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This open letter was written by Peire Wilson with contributions from fellow 2017 Frederick Douglass Global Scholars: Meghan Sowersby, Zakiyah Smith and Brennan Alexander Edwards.