Where Are They Now? Part Four: Kameron
This post is the fourth and final installment of my “Where are they now?” series, a collection of conversations with former Oberlin bloggers about their first years as Oberlin alumni. See my first post with alum Kira, my second post with Tegue, and my third post with Hanne.
Kameron (he/him/his) is originally from Detroit, MI, and graduated from Oberlin two years ago with a politics major and peace and conflict studies and rhetoric and composition double minor. During his time at Oberlin, Kameron was involved in Student Senate and worked as a Writing Associate, among many other roles. After graduating he was accepted in a master’s program in politics and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science and is almost done with his degree! With lots of political experience under his belt, Kameron is currently working as communications director for Samuel Vilchez Santiago’s state representative campaign in Florida’s 48th district.
Note: This interview was conducted in late July, so the events described in this post may have already happened.
R: It’s so good to see you! How are you?
K: I’m good, how are you?
R: Doing well, given the circumstances. Are you at home right now?
K: I am. I’m back in Detroit, I’ve been back since mid-March. How have you been?
R: Good! I just visited my grandma in Northern Idaho, and it was really lovely. This past weekend I’ve had virtual PAL training with Nathan!
K: Yeah! How has that been?
R: Umm … I don’t know. It was kind of hard and tiring on Zoom and it was weird to jump on board so last minute, but I’ve done it before, so I feel reasonably confident in my ability to help out these first-years, but it’s going to be so odd to do it virtually.
K: Yeah, it’s definitely a new situation, but I think that’s exciting to be a visionary in understanding what community looks like at this point … I’m just growing into the idea that we’re going to have to find new ways to do a lot of the things that we’ve been doing. The sooner we can collectively rally around that, the better off we are.
R: Absolutely. And I just imagine that this year more than other years, there’s probably more anxiety around entering college. If I were a freshman, I might be taking a gap year! It’s gonna be so different. I‘m just excited to be a reassuring presence for these first-years.
K: Word. I would probably take a gap year too, if I’m honest. But school online isn’t bad; it’s just different. Similar to you, I was abroad and came home in March. I was lucky that the Brits do school very differently from us in the states, so I only had like three weeks of digital school and it was all prerecorded lectures. But, we did find ways to have innovative group discussions and chat forums and different methods [to connect]. Based on what we see on TV and what I’ve been reading, I didn’t really foresee a situation where colleges are actually bringing students back to campus, so I think it’s really interesting that Oberlin is doing what they’re doing. I’m curious to see how it turns out. [note: so far, so good!]
R: Yeah. I’ve been surprised too. I have a lot of friends who go to schools around the country and most of them are fully online. It’s impressive and I’ve been encouraged by the thoroughness of all the information that Oberlin has been putting out, they’re really going for it!
K: Yep, full send!
R: Yeah exactly! (I laugh). It’s great and I’m very lucky. This is obviously not how I envisioned my last year of college going, but at least being in Oberlin is better than staying at home for another year. I’m also living with some friends, which I think will be huge.
What have you been doing with yourself since coming home?
K: What have I been doing with myself? A LOT of TV. I’ve been watching all sorts of things. Right now, I’m on a Fresh Prince kick… Outside of TV I’ve been doing a lot of school. I had a lot of research work to do with all my finals, and now I’m working on my master’s thesis, which is taking a racialized and gendered look at the #MeToo movement and political media specifically and understanding that landscape. I’ve been working on that and it’s due at the end of this month, which is frightening, but after that, I’ll be done with grad school.
K: And I’ll be one degree hotter, as the kids say!
K: So, I’m excited about that. And I guess a more fun thing is that I’ve been working with a candidate in Florida who’s a friend of mine. I met him at the summer program I did called the Mt. Vernon Leadership Fellows Program in D.C. a couple of summers ago. His name is Samuel Vilchez Santiago and he’s running for state rep in Florida’s 48th district. And he’s really cool … he’s 23 and has a really inspiring story of coming to Florida from Venezuela as a refugee, learning English, becoming his high school valedictorian, and finding all these ways to be involved with his community.
I’ve had a lot of opportunities to play communications director. It feels weird using big boy titles, even if I’m doing big boy work. I don’t really feel like a big boy yet, but it’s been really cool doing big boy work, or big person work, I guess. So I’ve been working as his communications director; it’s pretty cool.
The past few years have been really exhausting in politics, which was really convenient after getting an undergrad degree in politics (I laugh) and then a master’s in political communication, which was kind of bumming me out, it honestly was. Sometimes it feels like the bad guys just keep winning and there’s no recourse. But I think working with Sam, who’s this very young, motivated person, has gotten me “in the game” a bit more and helped me to find constructive ways that I can help. Which was tough, because sometimes [the person running] just doesn’t do it for you! It can be a real negotiation.
R: I can imagine that being in the world of politics, it would be so hard to not become cynical.
K: Oh, I am.
K: A lot of my friends say I’m pretty cynical. But it’s not a malicious cynicism. It’s more like, if you don’t get your hopes up, you won’t be disappointed. One thing I’ve gotten really good at is not editorializing things happening around me and just taking them at face value. I think that I’m able to get a more accurate view of things. That’s not to say that situational awareness and context aren’t important, but if I tried to figure out why everything in the world was happening, I would lose my mind and it would really not be good for me … I think we should do ourselves a service and be honest about what our realities are.
R: Yeah, totally. How has campaigning looked different in a pandemic?
K: That’s a good question. Because I’m not in Florida I have the luxury of not having to canvas, which is my least favorite part, generally. It’s very important, which is why we do it, but beyond that it’s still hot and sweaty. Much love to my candidate, but I’m happy I don’t have to do that!
But there are also new challenges; we’re doing contactless drop-off materials so people are aware of us. I do miss the campaign energy, which is what motivates people to work long hours or do the laborious work often without luxurious compensation, but it’s that energy that makes people want to participate, and it’s hard to recreate that specific aura at a distance.
... And it’s also interesting to have this experience with a relatively certain cutoff date. I’m starting a job as a management consultant soon for a firm, which is totally divergent from what I’ve studied and done in the past. But I’m pretty excited about that.
R: That’s awesome! That’s so great to have any kind of certainty right now. Kudos to you.
K: I’m really excited about that and it’s something I haven’t done before. The opportunities have sort of been presented to me … and I’m excited to see what consulting can do.
R: Absolutely, yeah. I was just curious, have you had any unexpected Oberlin connections in the world? I feel like I hear stories about weird coincidences all the time.
K: In short, I find little Oberlin connections all the time. One time I was in a class at LSE [London School of Economics] and we were all talking about where we’re from, and there was another American saying that he went to a small liberal arts college in NE Ohio, so I asked him after class and asked if he went to Oberlin and he said no, he went to Kenyon!
R: (I groan and laugh) [Kenyon and Oberlin are rival schools]
K: So, it wasn’t an Oberlin connection but still related. I walked by a building in London which I learned was the Oberlin-in-London building, which was cool. And I think I see or hear about Obies like, all the time. I think it’s been great to keep in touch with a lot of my friends from Oberlin. Before the pandemic, a couple of Obie friends visited me in London or I visited them elsewhere. A cool part about the Oberlin network is that people are all over the place, so especially when you’re traveling, Obies are very hospitable.I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things about Oberlin but it’s always fun to be an alum.
R: It’s interesting to think about where all of my friends will be a year from now. I imagine that we’ll be scattered all over the world, really. I mean, I’m trying to go back to Germany. I’m curious to see where everyone goes and what they do.
K: Word. It’s cool to see where my friends are and that they’re doing a variety of things, I mean I have friends in grad school, friends starting business ventures, friends not trying to start anything at all, it’s all over the place.
R: Absolutely. I think part of the reason I wanted to do this little series is that I don’t have a lot of Oberlin connections with alumni since most of my friends are in my year. I wanted to show the diversity of experiences that people have after they graduate, because people are all over the place and doing all sorts of different things, even within the interviews that I’ve done [in this series]. It’s kind of what I was hoping for.
Do you still follow the Oberlin blogs at all? I’m curious.
K: I try to. Occasionally I browse them. I think I read the Oberlin Review more than the blogs, though. I probably should read the blogs more, y’all have interesting opinions about things. I’m very happy to be talking to you and to hear that the blogs are still kicking.
R: Yeah, it is interesting to see people cycling through because now I’m one of the oldest bloggers. I don’t even think there are that many in my year, most of them are younger. It’s been really interesting seeing the new voices come onto the blogs, and I might be…on the blog hiring committee this coming year, so I’m really excited to help curate the next generation of Oberlin bloggers! (laughs).
K: Yeah! That’s awesome! This is so full circle because I’m almost a hundred percent certain I was on your selection committee.
R: Oh my gosh! I’ve found that I’ve had some unexpected full circle moments at Oberlin. I remember as a prospie I came to visit Oberlin in mid-March of my senior year and I sat in on this class. I remember there was one student who I was particularly impressed by. I was so blown away. Fast forward to a year later, I had a class with that person! It was just a cool moment. Even just thinking about the blogs, reading your blog, or Kira and Teague’s blogs, and now I’m interviewing you for my own blog, it’s just cool how things work out.
R: Maybe I’ll suggest doing some virtual blogger meetings so that people can connect, which is what everyone wants right now.
K: Yeah, it would be cool to meet some of the new bloggers. I remember that I always wanted to meet Simba. That was my blog. I read all the posts before I came. He was long gone before I even got to Oberlin, and then he went on to write for the Atlantic.
R: Whoa, that’s awesome! I had no idea. I feel like a lot of bloggers have a certain blog that they read a lot that inspired them to be a blogger, for me that person was Ida Hoequist. I actually emailed them after I got into Oberlin to thank them for helping me pick Oberlin.
K: Yeah, I remember! I think you wrote about Ida in your blog application.
R: Yeah, I did! But yeah, I wrote them an email … and then I had a student comment on one of my posts that said, “I love your blog, it helped me decide to come to Oberlin!” Which was so cute, and again, it was one of those full-circle moments. And it’s gratifying because sometimes you’re putting your words out there and you don’t know if anyone’s reading it except your mom and your three friends; it’s validating.
Do you have your own blog now, or a newsletter? I’ve been thinking about how I want to keep writing and maybe blogging after I graduate.
K: So, I have my own website, it’s kamerondunbar.com. It’s basically a blog. It’s usually focused on politics, current events at Oberlin, and travel. I just put different parts of me and things I want to share into the public sphere.
R: That’s cool! I’m always surprised to hear who’s reading my stuff sometimes, like my friend's mom or some person I went to high school with. I want to keep people apprised of what I’m doing but I also enjoy processing and understanding my experiences through writing, even if it is in a public way.
K: I think one thing that we as writers have to contend with, which has been exacerbated in quarantine, is sometimes I feel like it feels like we’re writing into the void, but right now it feels like people are listening, I’m listening, so keep going. I think you’ll actually find that there are more things you want to write about [after you graduate] and it’s less of a job. I think you’ll be all right.
R: That’s comforting to hear, in a way. It’s an interesting time for sure, very unpredictable. I’m a planner, so it’s good for me to shake things up a bit (laughs).
K: Right, right! Well, I really appreciated talking to you, and it was good to catch up. I appreciate the full circle, as we talked about. I’m excited to see how you are able to lead a new generation of bloggers.
R: It was wonderful to talk to you as well! I’m excited to see what happens with the blogs and everything else.
K: Take care, Ruth; thank you so much!