Bombing victim Draylen Mason will never go to college. Now there’s an effort to make sure other minority students can.
The 17-year-old double bass player was killed March 12 by a package bomb outside his home in Austin, Texas.
When Joshua Blue heard the news, “It stung,” he said. “It was a shock to the system.” The two had never met, but Blue immediately felt a kinship.
Like Mason, Blue is a classically-trained musician. Like Mason, he is black. And like Mason, he shared a connection to Oberlin.
Mason died just before he would have learned he’d been accepted at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Only 130 students were accepted from an applicant pool of 1,500.
Blue, who graduated from the college in 2016, wants to do something to help Mason’s story live on. He launched a petition to award Mason a posthumous bachelor of music degree.
But Blue wants to go even further. The petition now challenges the college to set up a fully-funded scholarship in Mason’s name to help people like him attend the conservatory.
Originally, his goal was 700 signatures — one for each student at Oberlin’s Conservatory of Music. Overnight, he got 1,500.
As of Monday afternoon, the count was at 5,200 and climbing and the petition had received the blessing of Mason’s family.
Black people are appallingly underrepresented in the arts, and by welcoming them into a prestigious conservatory, “you set up a new generation of mentors that younger people of color can look up to,” Blue said. “That’s what Draylen would have been.”
Music is a form of self-expression, he said, and it’s important to people to see themselves on a higher stage.
“There’s something about a person of color making music that you relate to as a person of color that is so different,” he said.
Honoring Mason is a way for Oberlin College to continue it’s rich history of supporting minorities, Blue argues.
In 1844, George Vashon became the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree from the college, followed by Mary Jane Patterson, who in 1862 became the first black woman to earn a degree from an American college.
“This is an opportunity to continue that legacy,” Blue said. “If you have a school with a name like Oberlin doing something like this, this action could spur other larger schools to follow in their footsteps. We could spark change on a massive level by this one action.”
Scholarships played a crucial role in Blue’s own college career.
“I couldn’t have gone to Oberlin without a scholarship,” he said. “I couldn’t have gone to school at all without scholarships… it was important to see that a school not only saw my value as an artist but wanted to support that.”
Oberlin College did not respond to requests for comment.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.