By Elise Schoening
Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. These names and stories have become all too familiar. So has the narrative of police brutality and unwavering racism that plagues our nation from Ferguson, Mo., to Chicago, Ill. But the black experience is a varied one that differs from person to person and place to place.
What are some of the stories of the black community here at the College?
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, students and faculty of the College took the stage in the Library Auditorium to share their perspective on the black experience in the first ever Black Monologues.
Hosted by the College’s Black Student Union (BSU), the event aimed to give voice to black members of the community and allow others a chance to listen and learn from their peers.
“I was inspired to start the Black Monologues because I saw the need for a forum that would serve as both a platform for students and faculty of color and as a learning environment where student could come to educate themselves on the different layers of black culture,” said sophomore marketing major Baldween Casseus, the chief financial officer of BSU. “Generalizations are often made of people of color, but by listening to someone’s story, I hoped that it would trigger a realization of how unique and dynamic we all are.”
Demand for the event was so great that each seat in the Library Auditorium was filled long before the monologues began. Members of BSU even created an additional three rows of seating to accommodate the large turnout, but were met with another wave of students just minutes later. Eventually, the organization had to turn people away.
The Black Monologues was just one of the many events organized by BSU for this year’s celebration of Black History Month. If you weren’t able to grab a seat at this year’s Black Monologues, you will be glad to learn that the organization already has plans to host the event again next year.
“The Black Monologues will definitely be happening next year,” said senior communication studies major David Brown, the president of BSU. “We’ve already started looking at different spaces around campus to hold it.”
While there may have been a shortage of seats at the monologues, there was certainly no shortage of speakers. A total of 16 performers braved the ever-growing crowd before them to speak candidly about their experiences with race. The event also included a special musical performance from the Gospel United Ministries during intermission.
All the speakers recited either original poems or essays. The Library Auditorium proved to be an intimate setting for these brave speakers to share their personal stories.
In a powerful slam poem, freshman psychology major Sabrina McIntosh shared her thoughts on being a black woman: “Who said black isn’t great? Black won’t leave you. Black is there when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. Black is beauty. Black is grace.”
McIntosh also acknowledged the adversity that Black Americans face.
“Black has others following you around the store. Black has cameras on sight. Black moves people away from you on the street. Black keeps you calm while talking to the police,” McIntosh said. “Black defines you before you know you, before you can get a job and as simple as that, takes it away. Yet we still love our black.”
In the midst of student speakers, two faculty members came forward to share their perspective on the black experience. Assistant Director of Financial Aid Dionne Hallback and Residential Director Marvin Carter each recited their own original poems.
“Sometimes I just want to walk without being a threat. No offense, but I don’t want anything you have to offer and I can’t apologize for blending in with the night,” Carter said. “I can’t relinquish my skin ‘cause it’s burned on me… I’m built black from the soil of this land and yet my own country doesn’t understand.”
Each performance offered a different take on the hardships that come with carrying a darker skin tone. Whether a speaker chose to deliver an original poem or essay, all were met with a rousing round of applause from the audience and rewarded for taking the time to share their stories.
“This event is important because I feel that it has and will continue to foster a greater appreciation for diversity on this campus,” Casseus said. “As students, we are often so caught up in our own lives that we rarely take the time to interact with people outside of our immediate social circles. The monologues gave students a window into the lives of people that generally they might have never taken the time to get to know.”