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Dan Blaine survives abuse, homelessness to become leader at CLC

Courtesy+of+Daniel+Blaine
Courtesy of Daniel Blaine

 Daniel Blaine is an ambitious man.

     As the current leader of CLC’S Black Student Union, he is tasked with overseeing its activities and appeal to Black CLC students.  Clearly, these are tasks only designated for people with high leadership qualities and motivations.

     However, Blaine has had to come a long way to get to where he is. Surviving an abusive childhood, homelessness, and having to grow up too fast, he has not only overcome, but he has thrived. 

     “We would get, my siblings and I, physically abused,” said Blaine when asked for details about this part of his early life.  “Beatings, spankings, all that kind of stuff.”

     The cruelty of his mother and stepfather shaped his early years and had a profound impact on his worldview. It wasn’t only him and his siblings, his mother too was a victim.

     “Hurt people, hurt people. There were a couple of situations where she was also the victim of domestic violence but for the most part, it was my siblings and I,” said Blaine when asked about more details of that part of his life.  “We were the ones getting abused by them.”  

     However, things were fortunately not always like that in Blaine’s childhood.  According to him, there were bright spots.

There were ton of good memories, great memories even,” Blaine stated when talking about the good parts of his childhood.  “I remember like, watching Star Wars on Spike TV. I was always excited to come home to my mom and tell her about my day, I would be ecstatic when they’d visit me in kindergarten or later years in school. We played games, laughed, and loved.” 

     This memory occurred while Blaine was speaking about his mother.  Movie nights and trips to the park were also things that they did together.  

    Another good memory came from Blaine’s birthplace of Marietta, Georgia.  When he was younger and living there, Blaine’s home was surrounded by beautiful honeysuckle bushes.

     “The favorite place I’ve lived was this house in Georgia,” Blaine stated when talking more about this subject.  “It was lined on both sides by really big honeysuckle bushes.”  

     According to Blaine, his love for the scent of honeysuckle bushes came from that time in his life.  

     Being the son of an African American father and White mother, one would expect that type of heritage to be a source of contention in relation to family or other surrounding people.  However, Blaine did not feel like that was the case with him.

     “There was never racism because they did not need to be racist, my Grandma, Great Aunt, Grandpa Dan, Grandma Karen. Anyone who loved me, loved me for me.” Blaine stated in response to being asked about this aspect of himself.  “If there was any animosity toward me, it was simply because I was Danielle’s child.”

     Danielle is Blaine’s mother and was unfortunately ostracized by her family because she fell victim to the disease of addiction.  Without going into too much detail, he shared about knowing this from a young age, as it was made clear to him by not only his mother, but the family as a whole. 

     “They hated her because of the choices she had been making in life, they disliked us because we were the kids of an addict” Blaine said when explaining why he did not think anyone in his family disliked him because he was mixed. 

     Luckily, Blaine was able to take these experiences and learn from them, preparing Blaine for what would follow later in life.  As one would expect of the leader of the Black Student Union, interests in politics have taken a significant role in Blaine’s life.  This exposure happened when he was in the 2nd grade.

     “I think my mom was subscribed to this newspaper called The Week,” he said when talking about where his interest in politics came from.  “I didn’t understand a lick of it.”

     As one would expect of a child, Blaine was only interested in the cover illustrations and political cartoon sections of the newspaper.  However, former president Barack Obama’s election in 2008 especially got his attention and launched his interest.  

Courtesy of Daniel Blaine

     “What really launched it was when President Obama was elected for his first term,” Blaine said when delving deeper into what started his political interests.  “I just really liked how this guy was talking.” 

     Blaine specifically liked how the former president commanded an audience.  Like other people on that fateful election night back in 2008, cheerful reactions were witnessed.  

     “My mom literally woke me up and she was so excited,” Blaine stated as he recollected his experience with that moment in history.  “She shook me awoke and was literally crying happy tears.”

     Martin Luther King Jr. also influenced Blaine.  This was largely due to being taught about him in school in the 2nd grade.  

     “We were doing a unit on Martin Luther King Jr, and she had showed us this movie,” Blaine said as he talked about his school experience with Dr. King.  “It was like, an animated movie where these kids went back in time to learn about the Civil Rights movement.”

     The female that Blaine referred to was Ms. Kester, his favorite teacher that he has ever had.  She seemed to be a very positive figure in Blaine’s life.  

     “Like, I loved her and she loved me,” Blaine said as he gushed about his former mentor.  “Ms. Kester was the best.”    

     Fast forward to 2020 and Blaine’s interest in joining the Young Democrats of Illinois was sparked.  The Young Democrats of Illinois is an organization dedicated to engaging young people with the ideals of the Democratic Party in Illinois.  

     “So, in like, 2020, after Grayslake’s Black Lives Matter march, there were kids that I went to high school with that I talked to that wanted a follow-up march,” Blaine said when talking about what sparked his path to be involved in the Young Democrats of Illinois.  “I wanted to do something with a little more impact.”

     Even though Blaine was not very involved originally and only went to one Young Dems meeting, he got more involved later.  Blaine even managed to become a director for the organization’s Youth Vote initiative “YVote”.  This is an initiative meant to surge the amount of voters in Illinois, particularly those that are college aged. 

Courtesy of Daniel Blaine

     In August of 2020, Blaine started taking a state and local politics class at CLC.  This was the start of his journey to becoming the current Black Student Union president.  While taking this class, Blaine stated that he was offered the chance to be nominated for the student trustee position.

     “I’m participating a lot and my professor, she loves my contributions, and she asks me if I would be OK with her nominating me to be the student trustee,” Blaine said as he told the story.  “I go through the interview process, and I’m selected out of the group of candidates to be the student trustee.”

     According to Blaine, that position used to be a faculty-nominated one.  He wanted to make it a student-voted role after getting brought on.  

     During the onboarding process, Blaine got an overview of all the clubs, organizations, and student activities.  It was during this time in 2021 that he took notice of CLC’s Black Student Union.

     “I did have a really good relationship with Beverly Phelps,” Blaine stated when explaining how he got involved with the BSU.  “She was the former advisor for BSU., and I’m lucky to call her a mentor and a friend.”

     According to Blaine, he had a desire to join the Union but simply did not originally have the time.  Homelessness, domestic violence, and other life hardships frequently got in the way. However, after two years and being elected to a third term, he reached out to Dr. Gina Smith, the current BSU advisor.  

     “I am going to become a contributing member to BSU,” Blaine stated as he recollected what he said to Dr. Smith.  “I can’t be on the backburner anymore.”  

     Soon after on September 14th of this year, Blaine was selected to become the president of BSU via an email from Dr. Smith.    Since then, he has served as BSU president.  

     Blaine’s goal as current BSU president is getting BSU more recognized and its importance and notoriety increased.  

     “Getting the BSU to be one of, if not the most influential student organization on campus,” Blaine stated as he started to delve into his desires for the future of CLC’s Black Student Union.  “Upping the status of the BSU is my biggest objective.”

     However, Blaine’s aspirations go above the BSU.  Blaine also stated that he wanted to become a part of Illinois Senate and potentially the U.S. President someday.  

     “President is absolutely an ambition of mine,” said Blaine as he talked more about his future goals.  “I think I’ve never lost that fantasy from when I was a little kid, you know.”

     Due to what he went through as a child, Blaine also stated that he wanted to become the director of the Department of Child and Family Services.  Their purpose is to protect abused and neglected kids and provide for their wellbeing.  

     “I want to make a difference in the lives of domestic violence victims, particularly children,” said Blaine as he spoke about this ambition.  “I know firsthand about all the inadequacies that exist in the services for victims, especially children.”

     The world needs more men like Daniel Blaine.  His ambitions, experiences, and sympathetic backstory make him one of the most interesting students at the College of Lake County.  The Black Student Union is lucky to have him.  

 

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