Mercedes Brookins
Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor

I was invited by the Black Student Association (BSA) to the Black Women’s Forum, which took place on Oct. 16 at The DoubleTree Hotel. From 9:30 a.m. to about 10:30 a.m., people were socializing, eating breakfast, and getting to know each other. There were not a lot of current students in attendance, so we ended up doing a round table. The people there included President Linda Oubré, Dean of Students Deanna Merino Contino, Director of House and Residential Life Lafayette Baker — a current member of the BSA — as well as several alumni dating all the way back to the class of ‘79. 

Discussion for the round table began around 10:30 a.m., where the alumni shared their experiences as some of the only Black students on campus in the ’70s and ’80s. They talked about their fond memories of being a part of the BSA, as well as racially tense experiences they have had. The alumni led the conversations, asking questions and giving examples of their own personal experiences, and then asking the current students about their experiences. They also asked about things that should be changed to make the campus a better space for Black students, specifically for Black women. 

In my opinion, there is a lot that could be done on campus to make Black women feel safe, yet I felt hesitant to discuss that. I talked about the intersectionality of being both Black and a woman and discussed how Black men will never entirely understand that intersection. I discussed some issues Black women may have on campus, but immediately felt dismissed by one of the alumni. This furthered my point that Black men will never truly understand what it is like to be a Black woman. We are asked questions about our experiences and what people can do to help us, and then we are dismissed, and made to feel like our experiences and opinions never actually mattered.

Someone asked about the differences between what the Black men and women experienced on campus, and, as I talked about the expectations each is given, I was asked a follow-up question: should there be something where Black women are helping tutor or educate Black men? In all honesty, I do not think that is a great idea, but, at the time, I said maybe because I did not want to explain why I did not like that idea. I believe Black women are constantly educating everyone, including Black men, and I do not think that it is our responsibility to do so. 

Events like the Black Women’s Forum are helpful for creating a welcoming environment on campus. If more students had attended it would have been an educational experience for the College community, but 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday was asking for a lot from college students. I think, at a time after noon, perhaps with games, movies, or prizes would also help in gaining attendance to important events like this. While this was a great event that I was happy to attend and be a part of, it made me much more aware of the work that needs to be done for the Black female students on campus. What I honestly believe we need to do is make real spaces where current Black students, especially women, feel safe to authentically tell their experiences, ideas, and opinions.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Engage

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