Archive | February, 2013

The More Things Seem to Change…

20 Feb

I could tell you a few of the stories about the things I as a woman of color, or my friends as people of color have experienced on this campus and you wouldn’t believe your ears. I could sit with you and tell you stories of the people we have encountered here on this campus and tell you all about the things that have been said to us. I can tell you about the young Latina, first year on this campus, first year in college who mid semester of her first year wanted to transfer because of her multiple negative experiences being Puerto Rican on this campus. I could outline a series of events which led to the daughter of a boss of mine so innocently asking me, “did you paint your face that color?” Or that of the girl who decided it would be better for her to walk in the middle of the street  rather than the sidewalk when she saw my boyfriend and I holding hands, even though we were walking in the very same direction as she was. I could sit, and tell you stories and anecdotes of harassment, disbelief, being uncomfortable, stereotyped…stories of the Urban Education Program. I could tell you all these things and some of you still wouldn’t believe me, while others would be just as shocked as I was to hear these stories from others. But what are these stories worth if I can’t relay them to the people who matter? What are these stories worth if nothing is being done to change the environment so that history doesn’t repeat itself?

So, I’ve joined a new organization on the WSU campus called M.A.D.E. Stands for Multicultural Awareness and Diversity Educators. The previous organizer of the organization had graduated and the club advisor was looking for someone to fill that role. Figuring it was about time I step up into a leadership position, I offered to fill that void. In taking on this new role I was actually taking on the task of going back to the drawing board with this organization, finding out what it was meant to do, and figuring out a new strategy to achieve the goal set by its founder one year ago. During our interest meeting last week, I expressed to everyone willing to listen that the goal of MADE would be to actually promote diversity on campus, and to not just talk about it. I made it clear that diversity was more than just black and white, and being so, we would also address issues of discrimination towards people  that are disabled, issues surrounding gay rights, structural racism, feminism (and its true meaning, not bra burning, men hating women), issues surrounding health in underprivileged communities and the list goes on. Sitting down at this interest meeting, my goal was to convince every person present that they had something more to gain being a part of MADE than just being able to say they were a part of an organization on campus on their resume. It was then that I realized the true reason I wanted to join MADE. I told them, “I am doing this, because my greatest fear is that years from now when I return to Westfield State, or when my sister or a family friend decides to attend, I don’t want to see that nothing has changed. I don’t want to see that young hopeful and ambitious students of color, gay students, students that are disabled, women are still being treated the same.”

SO to combat these things that affect WSU students everyday, I decided to do a little bit of research of my own. I decided to go back to the place where my journey began, WSU orientation.

There I was, a first year student fresh out of the Urban Education Summer Bridge Program where I went from this:

 Urban Education Summer Bridge Program Class of 2011

Urban Education Summer Bridge Program Class of 2011

to this:

orientation

WSU New Student and Parent Orientation Team 2012

Oh! It gets better! Follow this link to see the four videos that were supposed to convince me to come here:

http://www.westfield.ma.edu/prospective-students/undergraduate-admissions

Let’s be honest. The first thing that anybody judges another on, is appearance, solely because that is the first thing we see. Upon meeting someone, 95% of people judge others by the way that they look. So there I was, new freshman eager to see what WSU had to offer me, and I watched these videos that had all of 2 students of color in it. And to be even more honest, it didn’t even look like they belonged there. I literally thought someone had just cropped them into the rest of the video. Oh! and let us not forget the international exchange student, because she counts too. Need I say more?

Taking this all in, I entered that Fall semester regardless of my first perceptions for a few reasons having nothing to do with my skin color. WSU had an irresistible study abroad program, the price was right, and the flexibility in choosing my major was just what I was looking for. Not to mention I had an older brother already here, and friends from the summer program as well.

Figuring that I would get nowhere by clinging to the people who looked or acted like me I attempted to branch out, speak to people I usually wouldn’t speak to,surround myself with different crowds. There was a part of me that thought I could almost suspend my race. There was a part of me that thought that if I could stop myself from seeing color, others would too. I was mistaken.:

So here I am one full year later, recalling my experiences as a student of color on this campus and I now know for sure things have to change for the sake of future scholars like my little sister. You see, I am fully aware that WSU is not some anomaly of all universities, and that there are tons of colleges and campuses out there with students who have similar experiences. In my opinion, the first step to addressing issues like these, is getting them out in the open and discussing them. Kinda like what these people are doing:

So you ask me, well, Simbrit, what are you doing about it? And to that I could tell you all about the events MADE has planned or the degree I am working on, or the people I am connecting to WSU, but rather I will only reply, “I am writing this blog arent I?”

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Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger

19 Feb

Yes, I really did say that…And no, it’s not always a bad word…

Speaking of DIVERSITY….

19 Feb

Speaking of diversity, true diversity, I have to call attention to the diversity of black women. I cannot continue onwith this blog if I do not show you just how diverse we as black women can truly be. You see, black is beautiful because it is constantly changing and evolving. It’s beautiful and perfect because you don’t have to be from one specific place to embrace it or claim it or show it off! Black comes from different countries, speaks different languages, understands multiple dialects, wears different clothes, values different things, and I love that. It’s beautiful because we can all come together for dinner on a Friday night and just laugh. The connections we have is freeing and its almost as though when we are together we can, for just a little while, stop holding our breath. De Brazil, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, America, Ghana it doesn’t matter because we are all black. Being a black women is more than just having brown skin, and isnot only having brown skin. I have grandmothers and cousins who have skin as pale as a piece of paper and they too are black. Being black, claiming it menas claiming an entire culture foreign to most people. owever it also means claiming and owning a sisterhood. BEAUTIFUL.

Black People: Racialized and Normalized in 2013

19 Feb

Moving through my week, attending classes, taking notes and remaining busy as though I had no option but to do so I wondered what my first post could and would be about. I paid close attention to comments I’d overhear in the dining commons, I took extra care to understand the topics and issues discussed in the Ethnic and Gender Studies classes, and I tried to go back in my own mind to moments where as a black woman I was exoticized, racialized, profiled, stared at, judged, forgotten– for lack of a better term, oppressed.  With all of these things in mind I wondered still, ‘how can I express to everyone the ways in which I now know my black is beautiful? How can I tell a story of empowerment, enlightenment, and knowledge in a way that others will be able to swallow wholly?‘ I was honestly conflicted by this because when you care about something so passionately as I do this subject, you want its presentation to be perfect so that others will become just as passionate as you. And then, in my struggle to find a starting point, I remembered something a speaker I went to see earlier that week said to his audience. He said, “Black people have to learn to understand the way that media and society today makes them only good from the waste down and white people from the waste up — black people are good in bed, good at running, and will kick your ass, while white people are educated, intelligent, and wise.” When this man said that I had to take a step back and say ‘hmm…he has a point.‘  Outside perspectives of the way black people are supposed to speak, look, behave, learn, grow is so commonly distorted today and people just digest those stereotypes and assumptions all the while degrading people of color.

This is really such an interesting dynamic because in all honesty, black people and people of color in general do this to each other as well. the whole notion that one can “sound” or “act” white lessens the intellect of people of color. The phrase that is so commonly thrown around in communities of color of a woman having “good hair” all the while making the presumption that black women have “bad” hair. All of these ideas about what a black person is supposed to be is internalized. Young black girls take in the way they are supposed to dress, speak, and behave based upon outside perspectives, and that perpetuates the problem. The point of this post is not to give you a full-blown lesson though. This post’s purpose is to say out loud and to anyone who has ever doubted that my black is surely beautiful because I have the ability to defy all of the misguided stereotypes and expectations of what a young black woman is supposed to be, and others can tell. my hair is unique to me, the way I speak is most certainly unique to me, my goals are defined by the unique way I was raised. What’s more, is that this is not just true for me, it is true for all other people of color as well. All over people are defining themselves on their own terms. And how is that NOT something beautiful?

Hello EVERYONE!

4 Feb

Hello EVERYONE. Any one who has ever wondered about natrual hair on a black woman’s head, anyone who has ever been amazed or intrigued by the numerous shades of brown a black woman can own; Anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and saw more than just the color of their skin, anyone who has ever doubted its power, its strength, or its beauty. I write to those young brown girls who never feel quite comfortable in their dark brown, chocolate, caramel, mocha, or high yellow skin. The young brown girls who want their hair long, straight, and easy to comb because to them that is what they thought would make them beautiful. The young brown girls who refuse to leave the house without makeup because in the media ads and magazine clips  the prettiest, wealthiest, most popular women are themselves covered in makeup. I write to the black woman who aspires to be something more than just a black woman in America. I write to the immigrant woman fresh out of the islands whose tongue still holds the patois accent and the vibrant ting both at the beginning and at the end of every sentence that reminds her of home, the young brown mother whose mother was too young to know how to care for her because she had a mother who was young and in the very same position just the same. I write to the brown woman or girl who “acts white”, and the brown woman who is realizing her dreams, the brown woman who is getting her degree, and the brown woman who is playing both roles as mommy and daddy for her children. But, to write for just the brown woman would be a contradiction in itself I believe, because to deprive all those who do not necessarily “fit” under the category of a brown woman would be to keep the secrets and wonders of our beauty to ourselves. So, I write for everyone. White, black, brown, and any other color our society now commonly uses to replace one’s actual identity for a shade on a color chart. I write for the little white girl new to kindergarden who has never seen a brown girl before. I write to the person who belives that dreadlocks are unprofessional, dirty and only worn by Jamaicans. I write for the young person who was taught that only black people suffer from poverty or only thin African children are starving. I write for the person who feels intimidated whenever more than two people of color are standing in a group on the sidewalk. I write for the aspiring family of color who saved and budgeted to build their own home on the countryside that are commonly referred to as “the new black family down the street”, because the neighborhood is so segregated that when a black family moves in the entire town is aware. I write for the milk chocolate skinned Dominican who once she stepped off the plane from DR to NYC was stripped of her Domincan identity and automatically categorized as black, or African American. I write to you; to all of you…who ever wondered, who ever thought, who ever questioned, who ever hoped. To all of you who dont know…Hello!