Oberlin Footpath

There’s a footpath

A secluded shortcut between trees

that students take

when going from one direction

to converge with another.

Each time I tread on its dirt,

I listen for the beyond,

past the sound of leaves unlucky

to fall before my arrival,

But it is so quiet

How is it this quiet?

Perhaps I’m not listening hard enough

for the voices that often go unheard

I get peace from this walk but I never pause

to think of who gave it to me,

Who was here

when the grass still grew

and the earth wasn’t flattened

for their convenience;

The pioneers of this pathway

that did the work so my feet glide easy.

I know not of the hard toil and labor

that comes with trudging the same path again and again

Footsteps relentless for validation

in classes they were unwanted,

But I get to love.

They walked with strength and heads held high

wore the ground into compliance

til nature heard them coming

And knew not to grow there.


Jada-Leigh McGregor is a fourth-year Creative Writing and Law and Society double major with an English minor. She primarily writes short stories and flash fiction. In writing this poem, Jada-Leigh wanted to pay homage to all of the Black students who attended Oberlin before her, with high esteem to those who studied here at the start of Black admittance at this institution. The titular footpath in this poem is the dirt walkway next to Barnard House leading up to the Science Center. She chose this path because of how calming it is to walk on as the leaves above cast shifting shadows on the ground. With all the work Oberlin has yet to do to make its campus fully inclusive for its marginalized students, Jada-Leigh is hopeful that it can be done because of the people who achieved monumental change here in the past.