The November issue of The Blue & White will be arriving on campus soon. In the mean time, we’ll be trickling out the issue on Bwog. You might not know the following figure—but you should. In Campus Characters, The Blue & White introduces you to a handful of Columbians who are up to interesting and extraordinary things and whose stories beg to be shared. If you’d like to suggest a Campus Character, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kia Walton, CC ’12, claims her goal is “to create a space in the world where I feel comfortable, and to create a space where I feel other people are comfortable—being who they are and loving themselves.” The Bay Area native’s vision for a world devoid of constructed identities and limiting social pressures manifests itself in her personal attitude. “I don’t know if I’d want to be cool,” she wonders aloud. “Because, what is ‘cool’? I have bigger things to do than worry about trying to be cool.”
Walton is an officer of Proud Colors, a group that engages with queer students of color on campus, and is a perfect place to wrestle with her “triad of identities.” As a gay black woman, she felt that her needs were not always met in other campus groups that did not cater to queer people of color. “It’s not uncomfortable,” she says of her experience with those groups. “It’s just that there are certain parts of my identity that may not get tapped in to.”
Walton’s predilection for suspenders, along with more than a few other quirky fashion choices, might be misinterpreted as part of a wider rejection of the mainstream. Really, though, they’re just what makes her comfortable. “Just logically, they work better — instead of cinching gravity you’re actually working against it.”
Walton has carved herself a niche in the culinary world, too. Her favorite sandwich at P&W, where she works, isn’t one from the menu; it’s one she had to make up herself. “Hot egg, cheese, lettuce, sometimes olive tapenade, sometimes black bean spread, in wrap — I really like burritos, but we don’t have them.”
But Walton’s little idiosyncrasies and unique outlook don’t translate into narcissism. “I know you’ve got a job to do,” she said, pausing only a few moments into our ninety minute interview. “But I want to know about you, too. What do you do?” She went on to make our time together less like an interview, and more like a casual conversation between friends. In turns inquisitive, pensive, and talkative, her words poured out in rapid succession, but only after a moment to reflect and perhaps twirl a strand of hair around an outstretched finger.
Her genuine interest in the people around her is a longstanding personality trait. “It all began that fated Thursday night when volleyball practice was canceled so we decided to dine together at the gourmet restaurant down the block—Hewitt, I believe was its name,” says Michi Arguedas, CC ’12, of the night she first got to know Walton. “Dinner turned into an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, which led to 9 hours of deep conversation and soul searching. We cried, laughed, and bonded with each other unlike we had with anyone else during our first semesters here at Columbia.”
Behind the minutiae, behind what she calls “the image,” Walton remains a marriage of spontaneity and contemplation — still grappling with her identity but having fun along the way. “I need to be able to take a sledge hammer and break down this particular beam of this particular structure than I have created so that it will crash on me,” she says, gesturing a box-like structure and its vertical beams, then smashing it to pieces them with her hefty invisible sledge hammer.
Illustration by Eloise Owens