This week’s Brown Bag panel featured students from the Black Student Union who spoke on the topic of “Black Identities.” The panel is part of a series of events hosted by the BSU during Black History Month. The panel included students from all class years as a representation of the various spaces that Black students inhabit throughout their time on Colgate’s campus. Students on the panel were asked to look critically upon their Black identities and to chart the path through which they came into their “Blackness”. The panel was moderated by the Center’s program assistant, Che Hatter, who encouraged the panel to think about the complex relationships between gender, sexuality, and experience in the structuring of their Black identities. The questions included, “how does your race and ethnicity effect your gender?”, “what does identifying as Black mean to you and why did you start identifying this way”, and “how have your views about Black identity, racial identity, and justice changed given recent events?”
From these questions, students were able to provide answers that exemplified the complexities of identity and identification and proved that experiences and perceptions of Blackness are different for every individual. At the same time, the conversation proved that there are commonalities that can serve as unifying forces within the Black community and other communities of color. The concept of solidarity manifested indirectly in many of the responses of the students on the panel. In response to the question of how racial identity is affected by gender, one student remarked that she was most aware of her identity as a Black woman when she was in the presence of Black men. The panelist felt as though the lack of support for Black women, specifically by Black men was disheartening and greatly affected her position as a Black woman at Colgate. The student’s emotional response to the question was in part a response to a post she saw earlier on Facebook; a testament to the power of social media and its ability to affect “real” life.
Student’s discussed varying levels of growth and activism in response to recent events. For some panelists, the desire to advocate on behalf of issues of inclusivity and equity was revived by campus and national events. For others, familiarity with issues of racism and racial violence had already inspired optimal action and resulted in desensitization to sudden mass consciousness. One panelist recognized her need to practice self-care in regards to her activism and to focus on the community that she was fighting for rather than a desire to save everyone.
Overall, it was clear that all the panelists were proud of their Black identity, simply as a place of being, without need for explanation. As the CB4 song playing before the Brown Bag testified, “I’m Black y’all, and I’m Black y’all, I’m Blackety Black, and I’m Black y’all.” Although the students were happy to share their personal Black identities, it was clear that their identity just was. As one of the panelists said “I’m Black because I’m Black”.
If you happened to miss the Brown Bag and would like to experience it for yourself, here is a link to the video:
-Sharon Nicol '17