On February 19th in the CAAS Vanguard Lounge, DJ and facilitator extraordinaire, Kafilah Muhammad, set the tone for 50 Shades of Us-- an Ujamaa sponsored event promoting “a space for a discussion orchestrated for black and brown men and women as a way to have an open dialogue about why the fostering of negative stereotypes based off of skin tones is so prevalent in our community.”
Freshmen represented! Facilitators Giselle Lawrence ‘18, Catherine Wulff ‘18, Elijah Jimenez ‘18, Victoria King ‘18, Hailey Broughton-Jones ‘18, Kafilah Muhammad ‘18, and Sadasia McCutchen ’17 led attendees through a series of workshops and discussions. The community norms were emphasized as a way to create a safe space, allowing a wide range of opinions, that fostered participants to share their own individual experiences.
Opening up with clips from the Dark Girls and Light Girls documentaries, participants circulated throughout CAAS partaking in the Coloring Book activity. The activity asked participants to write down associated characteristics and stereotypes for both dark-skinned and light-skinned women and men respectively.
Putting pen to paper, "Sassy" "Ape" "Wifey material" "ratchet" and "big d***k" were some of the many phrases shared aloud, opening up the dialogue for the next phase of the event. Gender identified, smaller group discussions, were used as a follow-up to the activity. Some of the questions touched upon, related to colorism were:
1.How one defines blackness.
2.The intersectional relationship between one's sexuality and skin complexion.
3.The difference in social expectations between women/men of lighter and darker skin tones.
Most smaller groups were able to facilitate their own discussions based off of these topics. Many male attendees, particularly from Invisible Men, addressed stereotypes directed towards black men (The affects/expectations of teaching black men to be emotionally unavailable, black male mentorship, stereotype of their predisposition towards violence). As these conversations wrapped up, dinner was served, segwaying into a larger, mixed gender, discussion.
Coming together, the focus turned towards family. How do we address colorism within the intimacy of the family? Personal experiences of loved ones saying "don't stay out in the sun too long-you don't want to get too dark" "darkie" being a term of endearment, brothers and fathers preferring "light skinned" women over "dark skinned women", were shared. The discussion ended with a focus on the larger Wesleyan family.
Some of the topics/ themes touched upon:
A tendency for students of color to be the ones to sit at predominantly “white tables” however the inverse of white students sitting at predominantly “black tables” is more rare
Lack of black couples on campus
How the responsibility to alleviate colorism within the black community differs along gender lines
By Victoria King and Hailey Broughton-Jones
Photographer: Arianna Fullard