BLACK STAR MAGAZINE Editor-In-Chief Ashley Graham
Staff & Contributors Spring 2017
Deputy Editor Jasmyn Mackell
Treasurer Olubusola Osunsanya Social Media Manager Lauren Weems Creative Directors Tamara Mason Kyra Oâ€™Kelley Section Editors Mariah Doze Manzi Ngaiza Christell Roach Staff Writers Imani Brooks Adama Kamara Chad Tucker Linda Akinnawonu Social Media Alexis Perkins
Letter from the Editors Where do you look for black excellence? For #blackgirlmagic or #blackboyjoy? It may be a celebrity, an athlete, a community activist, or even in our own families. For this semester’s issue of Black Star Magazine, we wanted to explore the people in our own community: their talents, passions, achievements, goals and dreams. The articles in this issue reflect Black Emory so well because they capture us on our grind and in our element. Whether that’s in the classroom, in the studio, or just claiming our space in the DUC’s Black Hole, we bring this glow, this presence that cannot be replicated, only imitated. It shows how we’ve grown and flourished, the lessons we’ve taught and learned from each other, and the joy we’ve found from being with each other. For me, it captures so many of the reasons why I am proud to be a member of the black community here and honored to lead Black Star Magazine this year.
There is no one right time to celebrate blackness and all of its power, beauty, and greatness. As we continue to draw inspiration and strength from so many people and places, let us not forget the abundance of wisdom in our own spaces. Continue to celebrate and support each other like no one else can on this campus. And to the Class of 2017, let’s keep up this momentum as we head into the next phase of our lives. Stay dope. Stay woke. Stay beautiful. Stay black and excellent.
This Spring 2017 issue is one that I hold near and dear to my heart, not just because it is my final publication with Black Star but also because it represents everyone and everything that I believe in. Black Star Magazine is the ONLY Black student publication on Emory’s campus so it is our duty to ensure that our community is represented and heard at all times. When we began brain storming for this issue I felt it was important for us to return to our roots. Often times we get so caught up in navigating this white institution we forget how hard those 13 first Black students worked to ensure that we had the opportunity to exist (and disrupt) at this university. It is important to honor their legacies, recognize the accomplishments of current students, and create space for future Black students.
Our community continues to grow and has been filled with many achievements this past year. We witnessed the return of two prominent NPHC sororities and hosted the first BLACK Orientation in addition to amazing individual accomplishments, such as the first Black graduate with a degree in Arabic and the first Truman Scholar at Emory since 2011. Needless to say, in the 2016-17 school year, Black Emory has been consistently bombarding the institution with Black Excellence. As you partake in this experience recognize just how far Black Emory has come and just how far we have to go. Remember to bask in the longevity of the African American Studies department, marvel at the golden skin and poppin’ curls in HAIRitage, and appreciate what first years, seniors, and all students in between have accomplished in their time here. To the Class of 2017, Emory is just a stepping-stone for what’s to come. Let’s go take the world by storm and never forget the impact we made Being Black at Emory.
Jasmyn Mackell Deputy Editor
The Life of Black Emory: Class of 2020
Emory Universityâ€™s Department of African American Studies: A Movement
Black Creators At Emory
By: Linda Akinnawonu
! s r o i n e S
Welcome to the Senior Spotlight!
This popular series highlights the accomplishments of Black Emory undergraduate students who have demonstrated excellence in both the classroom and the community. 5
Adefolakunmi Adeugba Art history and business double major and President of the African Student Association, Adefolakunmi Adenugba, definitely took me by surprise. My first encounter with her was at the first general body meeting for the African Student Association in the beginning of the school year. She graced the group with her soft-spoken British accent as she explained the upcoming events for the ASA and greeted the new freshmen like me who were excited to be part of this specific community at Emory. My ten minute interview with her established her popular presence on campus as “Fola.”As we went about our interview, multiple people would come by and stop to say hello. Compliments would bounce back and forth between her and her friends. Her selfless personality constitutes the whole interview as she shies away from the simple questions about herself and discusses about her well wishes for the African and black community. Q: How has the black community played a role at your time at Emory? “It depends on who you are as individual and how integrated you are into the black community. Because I could say, I have not seen it grow or I could say it has slightly grown or it is so much better. It just depends on who you are. Some people say it has just been the same! For me, I have seen it grow, collapse.. almost break apart and then kind of put itself back together. It has been very dynamic. But overall, it has improved because it is becoming very inclusive of different types of black people and ideas. I would say that sometimes during my sophomore year, people in the black community were afraid to speak out on things. People are becoming more confident with their thoughts and feelings. I also feel like having the black group chat has been very helpful with events. It is so much easier to reach out to everyone.”
Q: Can you start by telling me about yourself and your major, including your experience picking out your major at your time at Emory? “I actually came in doing a visual arts major but Emory cancelled the visual arts major so I was like I am going to be a doctor… but that flopped because I took chemistry with Mulford. So I thought alright, let me do art history and obviously being an African, my parents were like you are going to be broke after college if you just do art history. So, I was like alright cool, let me just do business. That is when I applied to the business school and I got in.” Q: What have you done at your time at Emory? “Honestly, I try to do as much outside of Emory as possible because I avoid staying on campus. I interned at the High Museum twice. I did an internship with Creative ____ which is an art consulting agency that caters towards black artists specifically but people of color moreso. I had some clients from Atlanta and Africa and helped them get in contact with different art galleries and museums.”
“I actually came in doing a visual arts major but Emory cancelled the visual arts major so I was like I am going to be a doctor… but that flopped because I took chemistry with Mulford.” 6
Q: Favorite mEMORY? “I have been really lucky with my friends at Emory like I have a really great real group of friends that I can trust so that has been really great. Probably my best memories are spending time with them. I would say memories for me at Emory would be freshman year parties. I actually don’t know why everything stopped. Off campus parties were great -- I know that might be a really bad thing for me to say. I would say my experience at Emory… I don’t really keep it a secret that I am not the biggest fan of Emory.” Q: Why is that? “The white people are really brave and I have never experienced bravery like that in my life so that’s probably why I don’t like Emory.” Q: Can you give me an example? “It’s simple things that they say in class, especially in the business school. There are students that just laugh when they mention someone having AIDS. I was look around and I’m like this is not funny. I learned that the black community is very cool. I am really cool with everyone in the black community at Emory but I feel like it can be so much better than it is. This past year, it has got significantly better in terms of how involved people are. Obviously, as black students, we are all busy; we have jobs and things like that. But they are definitely ways that we can help each other with that and make sure we show up to each other’s event. But, I will also be cautious of saying that because so many people have so many other things to do. Some people cannot juggle jobs, school and extracurriculars and some people can.”
Q: What are your wishes for the black community? “I want the African community at Emory to be more involved in the black community. Since I’ve been here, they’ve been more involved in things, which has been very great. Especially this year, I’ve seen [the black community] show out to many events. With that, the African community should also show out to more ASA events as well. I think it is the responsibility of ASA’s executive board as well as the African community. Are we putting on things that everyone actually wants to come to? Are we making sure that these are the right dates and times that everyone can show up to? This year, there is so much more communication between the African community and the executive board and we are trying to cater to everyone’s needs. At the same time, let us know what you all want and we can do it! The ASA community has been responsive to that. We had four discussion sessions that people actually showed up to which has never happened before and I am really impressed. I am so happy and the African community is really growing. More people are showing out and helping with organizational stuff which is really helpful because it can be really stressful which is why I understand when people don’t want to have that burden.”
Malik Alexander Malik Alexander, a marketing and international studies major in the Goizueta Business School graced me with an inspirational interview that shedded light on the current success of the black community. My first encounters with him consisted of his humorous polls on twitter in regards to the Migos outpour and other issues around campus. My interview with Malik displayed his importance on individual self-care within our community.
Q: What have you done at your time at Emory? What extracurriculars have you participated in? What internships have you done? “I’ll start with smaller things. I was a MORE mentor through OMPS for a year which I really loved. I have been a RA for two years; last year in Complex and this year in Woodruff. I hosted my own radio show at one point. The biggest thing that I do on campus is my a cappella group, No Strings Attached. For that I have been the Social Media Marketing Chair, Musical Director, Vice President and whatever other roles that exist, I have helped in some capacity. That is my biggest things. In terms of everything else, I have worked in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts for two years. I have worked here every summer since I have gotten here as a Conference Assistant for two years and then as a manager. I have given my blood, sweat and tears to this place. There are probably more things I am forgetting but when I first got on this campus, I tried to do as much as possible and then try to cut down from there.”
Q: What is your major? How did you choose your major? “I am in the Goizueta Business School. I am Marketing and International Studies major. I knew I was going to do business since middle school; it was a matter of choosing exactly what. I chose marketing because I feel like everything in the world works in terms of marketing, whether that be how you present yourself, idea or movement. It all has to do with marketing. Then the international studies piece was really for me because I wanted to work internationally for a couple of years. With that being said, I am not fluent in Spanish so trying to make sure that I could put that to use later in life.” Q: Who has been your favorite professor? Manish Tripathi. Easy. He is the reason I chose to continue with marketing. He is the business school and is now at Amazon. He was Indian and wasn’t afraid to show that in class. The class wasn’t catered towards white people as a lot of classes normally are. He is one of the most intelligent people I met in my life. He made things simple, clear and concise which is something that doesn’t happen too often here.
Q: How has Emory shaped you as a person? “It definitely has shaped me as a person. Emory has taught me a lot about self-care and how I cope with stress. I think it has forced me to make sure that I have good and stable systems in place for dealing with day-to-day life. At any given moment on this campus something problematic can happen on top of everyone’s stressful workload and job. Being able to balance all those things and making sure I have good coping mechanisms is probably how it has influenced me the most.” Q: What are your plans after Emory? What are you trying to do? “I currently have a job with Macy’s where I will be up in New York working at their corporate headquarters. I will be doing planning and I am really excited about the move. I will be hopefully doing music moves out there as well!”
Q: What are your wishes for the black community? ‘I want it more or less to prosper but that is a very vague answer. I want us to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves not even on a group level but on an individual level where the group is still paying attention to the individual. That’s the biggest thing because we all run around so much. Half of us are working three jobs on top of school and activism so we have to make sure that everyone knows what self-care is to them. That is the biggest thing that we all should get!”
Jasmyn Mackell Jasmyn Mackell, a business administration major in the Goizueta Business School studying strategy and management consulting, took me by surprise. My interview with her revealed a senior who has been shaped through encouragement and influential mentors she had. She holds multiple leadership roles in the Emory community and displays success in all realms. This interview provided advice for the next four years, experience and emotion. Q: Who has been your favorite professor at Emory? Why? “My business law professor but actually I have two! But first, I would say my business law professor, Allison Burdette, because she is one of the very first business professors that I have had that has openly spoken about minority people without ostracizing them or belittling them. For example, she actively talks about rights in ways you should talk about them and tries her best to be politically correct but she’s a Southern woman from Tennessee. Sometimes it’s like, “Bruh you can’t say that” but like she means her best. The class was hard as hell and it sucks but I felt like she was someone who was generally interested in my well being and probably one of the first people who took into consideration the fact that I was struggling. Unlike my other professors who just say “you need to spend more time on it”, she actually sat down with me and tried to help me learn by giving me steps to be better. My other favorite professor is Rizvana Bradley; she is no longer here. I took her fall of my sophomore year and that was the first time I
actually learned something at Emory after being here for a year and a half. I am saying that because she was someone who taught but was so against the institution. In that, she would be like “this school is fucking dumb”! We’ll sit down and she’ll be like “what the hell is this”, all in the sense that she feels like we are not learning anything as students. So she actually took the time so we could actually learn. It wasn’t us trying to regurgitate. Our readings would be maybe 20 pages a night while you have your other professors trying to make you read 60 or 70 pages a night and not talking about it. It was refreshing to actually have someone who wanted to talk about the readings, get something out of the text and learn. In the class, we organized a lot of the Black lives matter protests that year. The community of our class shut down Clifton road because everything we learned in her class was applicable and were still applying in our everyday life. She’s amazing and she left Emory because it drove her crazy.”
“I think my one wish would be for a community that never waivers.” 10
Q: Have you seen the black community grow? “I like to say that I have seen the rise and the fall. Because it was prospering during my sophomore year, I would say it was at its height. It was huge because we were all together after our freshmen year of toughening it up and we became a part of the community, so everybody was good. Then pivotal upperclassmen started leaving and I think that sometimes they weren’t proper organizational structures in place so that one organization could continue to prosper. Also, social circles depended on these organizations so it was weird to see the dynamic shift such as seeing no one in the EBSU. You guys don’t even know about The Black Hole which is like insane. The Black Hole is literally the bottom level of the DUC which is closest to the theater. No one even knows that is thing anymore. Seeing small traditions wain away is slightly upsetting but also seeing the growth and changes that have occurred makes it exciting. I really hope that the way the Black Greek community is going, it continues to grow. I also don’t want our community to be based solely on Greek life because you can not have letters and do dope shit like me! I don’t want our community to be dependent on organizations and just be dependent on being on a community, which I think we lose sometimes.” Q: What are your wishes for the Black community? “I think my one wish would be for a community that never waivers. I want people to always feel like they have someone in their corner and know that there is someone here for you whether you are gay or black and raised by the whitest of white people. There is always someone in the Black community looking out for you and there is someone you can relate to because Emory just attracts so many different type of people. It is impossible to have someone that is not for you. I think sustainability is what I really want. I want our community to always thrive and prosper but remember the people that came before you and appreciate what you have.”
Malkese Edwards African-American studies major and sociology minor, Malkese Edwards’ active presence on and off campus show that his activism extends beyond Emory’s campus. Q: What have you done at your time at Emory and what extracurriculars have you participated in? “That’s a lot. So freshmen year, I did a lot of volunteer Emory kind of organizations such as Emory Reeds, which is a tutoring program where we go to neighboring elementary schools and tutor youth. Also during my freshmen and sophomore year, I worked with this program called “Men Stopping Violence” which deals with domestic violence. My sophomore year was the year when the police killings really started going on a rise like Eric Garner and Michael Brown. I organized a trip to the March in D.C during my sophomore year and then after that, I started really getting involved in actions round Atlanta. My junior year, I co-led a trip to Flint with Jonathan Peraza. A lot of my work has been outside of organizations; I have not necessarily been in the Black Student Alliance or done stuff through them. I just organize with people in organizations but outside the organizations. This year for the first time, I was part of the NAACP and we recently had our spring break trip. But generally, most of the stuff I have done has been outside Emory.” Q: Who has been your favorite professor at Emory? Why? “Definitely Dr. Vanessa Siddle Walker. Her work is the intersection between AfricanAmerican studies and education. Why? Well, I am interested in education, specifically youth in the African-American studies discipline. Dr.Vanessa Siddle Walker has done a lot of research on what black teachers were doing prior to integration, how we can utilise their methods in the modern movement and about how Black activists were advocating for Black education prior to integration. So I just think her work is very interesting. She had us doing a lot of interesting projects such as being college counselors for high school students. She really teaches hands-on so we went to multiple historical sites, so we were just in a classroom all the time. She’s just a great teacher.” Q: How has the black community played a role at your time at Emory? “To be honest, I mean I don’t really have friends outside the black community. They have held it down in times of sadness, when people were getting murdered. We have a way of coming together as a community and helping each other out. I like to play basketball so I am always playing with my friends. They are always there, any day. From when you don’t have a meal to eat, you can always call on someone within the community to help out. They are that extended family away from home.” 12
Q: What has been your favorite mEMORY? “Probably my favorite mEmory would be last year when we traveled to Flint and just seeing the students be so motivated around a certain issue and really just coming together and dedicating themselves to helping a community, our own community. It was really great to me. We were in Flint for two to three days, just working nonstop. It was sad just because of what was going on but it was also motivating because we were students, not even real adults yet, but yet we were so passionate about an issue and did something about it.” Q: What are your plans after Emory? “After Emory, hopefully I will be a college counselor at a high school in the Bronx through this program called The College Advising Corps. After that, maybe graduate school for education. But right now, looking at the immediate future is just trying to be a college counselor.” Q: Wishes for the black community? “Just keep supporting one another! Keep striving to create a more just community and to prosper!”
Class of 2020
Tha yo for u, Bla nk peo being ck Emo th p r –Bo le on e fun y, n t ris N his ie iyon cam st zim pus. a, 2 0C
k an lack he h T ,B rt u fo e, yo ry, ure lwe o lt ce Em cu y M C nn 20 e –P
here are so many ways to describe the Black student population at Emory, more commonly referred to as just Black Emory—family; strong; vibrant; beautiful; proud. While our voices may be small in number, we find strength in each other’s melanin to make our presence one that cannot be ignored in times of needed social action. We are the new Freedom Fighters, the next Kendrick Lamars and the future Michelle Obamas. Each students’journey to their graduation day differs, but it is undeniable that their journey would be completely different without the community that is Black Emory.The journey revolves around the desire to find one’s own sense of Blackness as an undergrad and it begins with freshmen year.
The Life of Black Emory:
By Imani Brooks
, ry to y, o k t an Em me uni the a h T ck ng m nd ng a i Bl duc com d, a bei 0C , 2 o h u o yo intr tive rho wit ye, h r or te d fo pp sis iate ra W u g c y a s azin sso . –T a ty am ide ori pr min , nk mory d a Th k E an e. c g m Bla racin real 0C , u 2 b e yo em th n, w g r fo atin Bro ltiv na cu Brian –
isonestudentbeginning upon the make-or-break you journey that is freshman year. Kira moved into Turman, one of the first-year residence halls, in the fall semester from Memphis, Tennessee, inspired by the amount of opportunities she believed that Emory would provide in terms of the Creative Writing Program, academics in general and extracurriculars. She is pursuing a major in English and Creative Writing, with the hope of becoming a writer and/or a professor. Kira is undeniably an artist at heart because she loves how writing is a way of creative self-expression and communication and allows her to combine what she’s passionate about artistically with academic pursuits.
“Thank you, Black Emory, for showing what’s possible; for showing me many different ways to be unapologetically Black and myself; Emory can for loving and supporting me and make Black relating to me when I felt like students no one else did. I am glad feel,especially we are all in this fight withinalocation like Atlanta aka the together.”
Within the black first years, Kira considers herself a curious dreamer. She views her peers as her extended family because it is the single place on campus where she has found such a close knit and supportive group of people. She’s extremely grateful for the wave of support she can find within her class without even having to ask for it. It is as if there is a silent code for everyone to have each other’s back and Kira loves it. Similarly, in terms of Black Emory at large, Kira views everyone as her extended family who serve as her biggest source of validation and inspiration at Emory because each person is accomplished in their own type of melanin Black Mecca. As she transitioned into life at Emory, she became even more excellence. grateful for the sense of community Black students Even though she knew that Emory was a predominately before her had already created. white institution (PWI), Kira was still shocked by how small Kira’s first year at Emory has been one rollercoaster of adventures that has taught her more about who she is and who she wants to become. Some highlights from her first year include a poetry seminar by Natasha Trethewey, an African American Poet Laurette; listening to spoken word poetry at CultureShock; performing original pieces through Emory Dark Arts; and attending Spelhouse Homecoming. In general, Kira is pleased with her first year because she was able to reach new milestones in her journey of self-acceptance, a goal very central to her time at Emory. Kira hopes to graduate and be able to look back and feel very confident in her decisions and pursuits. So far, it seems as if she will be able to achieve her goal because Black Emory is making her feel as if she does not have to change herself to fit a certain mold—instead she can be unapologetically herself. 15
isanotherBlackfirst year striving to hold her own as a minority student at Emory. Hailing from Smyrna, Georgia, Naomi knew she wanted to come to Emory after a tour during her junior year of high school helped her imagine herself on campus. In August, she was able to make that high school dream a reality and now she is pursuing a major in Human Health and Business. Without hesitation, Naomi identifies her Ethiopian background as a big part of her Black identity. Her awareness of her Blackness began when her middle school experience made it painfully clear that her skin color made her “different” from her classmates. Then, as a high schooler, Naomi drifted between two worlds of privilege since her high school was in an upper class, predominantly white area and her house was not. Seeing difference only strengthened her connection to culture that has a strong sense of community, reverence her culture. for elders, stresses spirituality and has delicious food. She is very proud to identify herself with an energetic Naomi has found that the Ethiopian student population at Emory is small but close so they all know each other.
“Thank you Black Emory for making the best memes out of the tragic Migos situation.” 16
Naomi is proud to be a part of Emory’s Black first years as they are some of the best people she’s encountered while at Emory. She loves how her class are already very aware of themselves and attempt to build upon their self-awareness. Naomi sees the Black Emory community at large as genuine, close and funny. She appreciates how many upperclassmen took the time to show her the ropes throughout the year. Without the strength of Black Emory, Naomi’s outlook on life at Emory would have been very different. Naomi’s first year has been eye-opening and rewarding, which is the ultimate hope for a first year experience. She contributes her satisfaction with her first year at Emory due to exploring a sociology class in the fall, taking chemistry to reaffirm her abilities in the sciences, joining Ngambika and performing at Bambika Beats, and writing for Emory Odyssey. When Naomi graduates, she hopes that her experiences as a Black student will grow her sense of direction for where she wants to go in life and cement the friendships she has made while introducing new people into her life.
Emory University’s Department of African American Studies During the Civil Rights Movement, college students across the nation were fighting to expand higher education to include Black Studies. In 1968, Emory University responded to calls from their African American undergraduates to establish a Black Studies Program. Then, in 1971, the program, the first of its kind in the Southeast, began its first year.
A Mov By: I eme man i Bro nt ok
Over the years, the program underwent many changes. It expanded to AfroAmerican Studies and African Studies in 1980, changed its name to African s American and African Studies before the program split into two separate programs and finally became the Department of African American Studies in 2003. The department now operates as a sector of Emory University dedicated to “the histories, cultures, and political movements of black communities across the United States and the wider African Diaspora” by offering first-year seminars, lectures and opportunities for undergraduate research.
Many distinguished faculty and staff members—Professor Rudolph Byrd with his Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and Dr. Carol Anderson as the Department Chair and an award-winning author— have contributed to the Department as a place at Emory that has an important impact on the intellectual and cultural growth of students. One of the Department’s newest members—Dr. Michelle Gordon—is following in their footsteps and creating her own legacy. Gordon is a visiting assistant professor who came to the Department as a James Weldon Johnson Institute Fellow. Her specialty, African American Literature, was inspired by her time as an English major in undergrad when two African American Studies courses exposed her to Black authors. She is evidence of the impact of African American Studies departments and programs at colleges and universities. Without those classes, Gordon would not have been exposed to her favorite works, Autobiography of Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and she would not have found a passion in “learning things that people didn’t want to teach me” that led her to teach African American literature. “There is power in teaching things that are written out of history, in teaching our history which is American history,” Gordon says. As someone who grew up in Marietta, Georgia, choosing to teach at Emory this year felt a bit like a homecoming as she has been able to follow her academic pursuits to Atlanta, the Black Mecca. She has taught The New Negro Renaissance, Survey of African American Literature since 1900, Passing and Miscegenation in 20th Century African American Literature, Slave and Neo-Slave Narratives and Black Women Writers at Emory. As a professor, Gordon finds designing and teaching several new classes for the Department to be rewarding and challenging at the same time. One of her most satisfying classes is one she taught this semester-Black Women Writers. Gordon believes that to create a space for acknowledging and studying solely women within the discipline shows the progress of those within Black Studies. In fact, she resonates with the importance of Black female writers so deeply that she would go beyond the classroom to address it. 17
The department fulfills an important duty by spreading Black academia, thought and culture through activities outside of the classroom, such as an interdisciplinary conference about racial violence in America (2002), the annual Grace Towns Hamilton Lecture and the Keynote lecture for Martin Luther King, Jr. Week at Emory. Gordon would love to see the department host a symposium about Black Women Studies to highlight hidden work and create more public dialogue around their contributions. Gordon sees academia as a powerful force, especially today. Politics and the news show that “unthinking citizens are some of the most dangerous people in the world.” Critical thinking is more important now than ever.” As a professor, Gordon attempts to teach in way that inspires students to view their time at Emory as more than just getting a degree, but about making a difference in the community. Literature is an opportunity to think about human existence beyond our life and experiences—a way to imagine the possibilities of social change in certain contexts. For Black students, Dr. Gordon sees academia as a tool for empowerment since, throughout the Department, Black Studies is centered around the ideas of striving and Black excellence, not about being a victim of history.
Because of professors like Gordon and others, the Department has graduated extraordinary students whose names are in Essence Magazine and are known on Capitol Hill. And, now, even with the changes within the Department, current African American Studies majors and minors are moving through their studies to become community builders and unique global citizens. Sariyah Benoit, Class of 2018, is an African American Studies major who is adding to the legacy of the Department. Hailing from the Bronx, New York, Benoit declared her major in the spring semester of her first year at Emory. She was drawn to African American Studies because she was intrigued by how the major could provide her with “the language and theoretical frameworks to describe and understand the world [she] lives in.” After finishing her major, Benoit hopes to become an African American History professor. She is a student whose dedication to her area of study allows her to see the Department of African American Studies as a very important aspect of Emory in light that the campus is predominately white. 18
“The department is an important addition to the Emory curriculum because it nuances the space for black students to theorize and articulate non-normative experiences through and beyond traditional disciplines in ways that conventional studies can’t,” Benoit says. Testimonies like this one reaffirms that Black Studies have an appropriate place at every institute of higher education. As a proud AfAm major, Benoit has been keenly aware of changes within the Department during her time at Emory. The biggest change is that a lot of professors are leaving for various reasons. In her opinion, their departures highlight the hostile working environment campus that Black faculty must navigate as staff members at a PWI. Black faculty deserve the upmost respect because they must fight constantly to promote a curriculum that only reflects a very small percentage of students’ history and culture. In a way, they represent the teaching of difference. To be a part of a minority on campus, these professors are vulnerable to being overworked because they value mentoring students and representing the Black population and “opinions” on University committees, even though most times they do not receive adequate compensation for their efforts. Benoit respects the Department so much because, to her, the Department is full of perseverance. “Despite the dwindling staff, the department has always been financially and emotionally supportive of students and their organizations,” she says. The movement, which is the Department of African American Studies, lives through its students and faculty. The Department of African American Studies at Emory should always be considered a true gem of the institution. It supports students in a unique way that without the existence of the Department some students would have never learned history correctly. Students, faculty and programs that come out of the Department are striving to contribute to an all-serving and inclusive academia world. Hopefully, the movement will continue and grow for many years and will continue to benefit all types of Emory students.
BY: ADAMA KAMARA PHOTOGRAPHY: JUSTIN MCCARROLL AND IFECHI OKONKWO
his spring, Emory student Ifechi Okonkwo set out to create a project that both honors the widespread influence of African culture as well as celebrate the underappreciated diversity of black hair. In collaboration with the photography skills of student Justin McCarroll and many others, Okonkwo’s vision was realized. The result was a photo-shoot showcasing hair, styled by Okonkwo herself, and inspired by ancient African culture. The project, titled HAIRitage, features Emory students rocking a range of beautiful hairstyles, clad in gold glitter and tribal face paint. The idea for this collaboration arose when Emory’s African Student Association first announced that the theme for their annual event, Taste of Africa, would be ‘Ancient Africa’. Okonkwo, who does hair for students on campus, was asked by the ASA to apply her skills and create a performance for the event, which took place Saturday April 15th. She 20
started brainstorming about the ways in which African culture affects how black women do their hair. Okonkwo considered the cultures she wanted to represent from the African continent and began to explore how she could recreate ancient hairstyles in a modern context. She gathered her inspiration, and proceeded by assembling a group of students to help her bring these ideas to life. The photo-shoot, which had been in the works since February, took place on March 25th on Emory’s campus. It lasted over 2 hours and required the work of about 25 people total from photographers and models, to makeup artists and planners. The photographers included Justin McCarroll, Sasha Orewa as well as Okonkwo herself. Aside from the efforts exerted on the day of the photo-shoot, Okonkwo spent a great deal of time in the days and weeks before the shoot braiding and preparing hair on the models. The styles included Ethiopian braids, cornrows, bantu knots, afros and locs.
Okonkwo’s main fear going into this project was that her ideas wouldn’t come out as she had envisioned them. Her original plan was to have headshots of the models in front of a plain background, focusing primarily on the hairstyles that she had recreated. However, on the day of the actual photoshoot, these plans transformed as the models migrated away from their original setting and began posing for full shots in a natural background. Photographer McCarroll describes the progression of the shoot as a “natural process” claiming that “when you have that many people involved, people just tend to migrate and things change.” Although the final product differed from what she had originally planned, Okonkwo claims that the photos ultimately ended up working out even better than she had ever imagined. There is much to admire about black hair and its heritage, despite lack of representation of in the media and African culture often being discredited for its contributions. With HAIRitage, Okonkwo not only acknowledges these contributions but she also challenges the lack of representation by presenting her own creations of black hair in a positive light.
Photographer, Justin McCarroll, directing models for photos. Models: Amber Wilson, Nakiyah Flowers, Brittany Jones, Adaobi Okocha
Above: Karin Wilson, Samah Sadig, Amber Wilson Below: Samah Sadig
Models: Nana Amoah, Kyra Watson, Bobbye Hamilton
Models: Grace Essien, Adaobi Okocha, Samah Sadig, Naomi Tesema, Dyan Lofton
Models: Grace Essien Kyra Watson, Diyaaldeen Whitaker, Naomi Tesema, Samah Sadig, Mike Duker,Amber Wilson, Kyra Oâ€™Kelley, Nakiyah Flowers
Just Black by Chad Tucker
What does it mean to be black?
o, like, really, looking beyond the hundreds of years of systemic oppression, how has the definition—our definition—of blackness been deconstructed, shifted, molded, and reformed over the varying epochs of black social life? I came to Emory a naïve freshman pursuing an image of a black community I conjured in my head that would mirror, exactly, a perfectly sculpted copy of the one I had back in Chicago. I thought everyone would enjoy drill music. I thought everyone would understand, immediately, that my biting, shady sense of humor was a communal characteristic developed in my high school’s hallways. I thought everyone would helplessly and happily fall in love together, like an episode of a television sitcom. This was not the case. On face at Emory, there were many black people, yet the individualized cultural differences were not aspects that could be written on demographic statistics. On the south side of Chicago, I seldom encountered African-Americans (first or second generation willing immigrants) and fewer CaribbeanAmericans. I was black – just black – and surrounded by just black people for most of my life, until I came to a racial landscape at Emory that required me to develop a new type of grammar when speaking about black people. For our lives contained more nuance than could be encapsulated in the word “black.” Even being surrounded by “black” people was a useless designation, since there were cultural differences between the now three different subgroups. AfricanAmericans had a rich culture fresh from the mainland infused with languages and traditions that I did not understand, like Yoruba and unpronounceable African foods; I had a culture mutilated from centuries of 24
subjugation and demonized at every turn by dominant, white culture. Envy. I was positively green with envy at the AfricanAmericans that white people viewed as a no different than me but that I viewed with longing eyes as the primordial sites of culture from which “just black” people descended from. A pang of jealousy struck me during orientation week, when I stumbled into an African Student Association meeting. I stood for five minutes in awkward silence as, interspersed by laughter, the voices around me joyfully reminisced on parts of being home. Then, a question was presented for everyone to discuss, upon which my foreign presence would be exposed: “what is your favorite African dish”, the board read. I sneakily drifted toward the door, then out of it, before being discovered. I revel now in my just blackness, and I supplanted my unintelligible African roots with pride in the culture created by the North American African diaspora. The blackness I thought I had at home, its luxurious image, had not been mutually exclusive with what it meant to be black at Emory. Occasionally, there are missed connections with the other black students, like when I mouth words to Caribbean or African songs or nod vigorously when I have no clue what is being said. But our blackness unites us because all it really takes to be black is some glowing melanin sprinkled with inescapable oppression. Blackness at Emory is what allowed me to feel discover myself as an individual, too, supported in study lounges with faces that always looked familiar. I have learned to appreciate this cauldron of new blackness that I only have four years to immerse myself. An immersion overflowing with drill music, Caribbean food, African dance, and leery stares at white people, yes. Oh, what a time to be black at Emory!
Black Creators at Emory By Adama Kamara
mory University sits on the outskirts of Atlanta, close enough for its students to easily access the vibrant music and art scene that the Atlanta metropolitan area has to offer. With resources like major record labels merely miles away, it's no wonder that there are artists and content creators on Emory's campus whose work and efforts are heavily inspired and supplemented by their proximity to the city. Emory's heavy pre-professional focus is juxtaposed by the “cultural capital of the south,” creating an interesting scene of artists on campus. Navigating the responsibilities of a rigorous college curriculum, artists must find a way to balance prospering academically while still pursuing their art. Amongst these artists is a thriving community of black students. Their energy towards their craft deserves to be noticed, but on a campus that focuses so heavily on certain pre-professional tracks and purely academic prowess, this may often go overlooked. Simone Alyse is an Emory College student at the forefront of this emerging community. Living in a world driven by music, the Boston native singer-songwriter has been performing since the age of 4 and writing her own music since the age of 12. Last year Alyse transferred from Berklee College of Music and joined Emory as a junior. Though Emory is not necessarily known for its music program, she transferred with the intention of immersing herself in Atlanta's lively music scene and escaping the toxic nature of Berklee's music program--one that didn't provide enough resources to its black students.
that she can pursue a career where music is at the forefront of her life and where she's performing regularly for a living. "Being kind of like Beyoncé is the goal,” Alyse says. “Being in a space where I could work solely on my music and attract the kind of audience she does with her talent is the ultimate goal."
Alyse is very much inspired by artists like Nina Simone, Solange, Erykah Badu and Frank Ocean, just to name a few. However, she says that her recent EP, Liquid Gold, is the first time she wasn't trying to be a "Lauren or an Erykah or Beyoncé. [She] was just trying to be Simone Alyse." With Alyse's smooth voice accompanied by an eclectic combination of sounds, and her powerfully written lyrics, it's certainly clear that that she brings her own unique force and flavor to her work. For Alyse, her music, and this EP in particular, are a form of healing as her writing helps her overcome painful experiences. In the future she hopes 25
However not all are thinking of their craft at that large of a scale. This is particularly the case of producer and composer Jordan Argrett who goes by the stage name Jordn. on the SoundCloud account where he releases his music. The sophomore from D.C. says: "I'm not about wanting to be famous or having my own thing. At the most I would love to travel and open for someone one day but I don't want that to be my life."
Artwork by: Lauren Rothman Artwork of Jordan Argrett, 19C
Argrett started making his R&B inspired electronic music a few years ago when he couldn't find the perfect music to study to and decided to make it on his own. However recent this endeavor, he has been involved with music from the age of five moving from the piano to the saxophone to electronic music over the years. On putting his music out there for people to hear, Argrett says, "I kinda want to do it but I'm not good at promoting myself. I don’t have that kind of personality… This mainly comes from the fear of me not knowing if people even want to hear the kind of things I make." Despite this modest attitude, Argrett's electronic mixes have received quite a bit of traffic on his SoundCloud account with his most popular track receiving over 28,000 plays. He has even made a profit off of some of his beats. Because Argrett doesn’t really make it known that he produces, he says that his talent hasn’t necessarily connected him to the Emory community but he hopes to push himself outside of this comfort zone by collaborating on an upcoming EP with other Emory musicians.
More involved with the Emory community is selfproclaimed poet and occasional singer Marshall Jaymol King, stage name Jking the Poet. Just last semester King put together a successful poetry slam that went so well that Emory's English department offered to fund a similar follow-up project projected to take place during the spring semester of 2017. King says that being a poet is the "More salient character of who I am. I am black. I am queer. I am a poet. That’s the Holy trinity of how you would describe who I am." According to King the Emory art scene is very
"interesting and scattered." Emory offers " a really big market for everything that [they] could want as a poet and there are periods of time when people make a concerted effort to host open mics or arts shows but no one’s really showing up because it's Emory and we're all also busy being students." King’s inspiration doesn’t really come from individuals but rather their personal experiences and poetry scenes such as the New York and San Diego slam teams. King hopes that someday Emory will have a stable slam team, preferably through Free Thought, an arts collective that they lead.
Marshall Jaymol King aka Jking the Poet 27
For senior Torrian Robertson his creative outlet, cinematography, is therapeutic. Though he’s been interested in it for some time, Robertson’s experience in film began when he started his YouTube channel, TorrianTV, in the summer of 2015 as a way to make the best of a particularly dark stage in his life. The videos on his channel reflect Robertson’s vibrant and candid personality as well as well as his lively sense of humor. It features a range of content from a playful workout tutorial to more serious discussions surrounding topics like black queerness. Robertson is inspired by YouTubers like Shan Boody, Shameless Maya, and Issa Rae, in regards to the way they allow their unique and bold perspectives on life to permeate through their work. Beyonce, however is Robertson’s number one inspiration. He especially admires the way she has come to be know as well rounded artist who is tirelessly dedicated in perfecting every aspect of her work. Robertson has already begun to show promise as a well-rounded artist himself, specifically with his most recent project. Earlier this year Robertson delved outside of his YouTube channel and served as co-Director, Actor, Writer, and Producer for a short film titled “Garden.” The film, made in collaboration with Emory students Jorge Mendez-Magaña and Tara Olayeye, bravely addresses the topic of black gayness at the intersection of religion. Robertson entered the film at the 2017 Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival, where it won one of only four jury awards.
Moving forward Robertson hopes to continue creating and pushing TorrianTv to be bigger and better. So far he’s received a lot of positive energy encouraging him to pursue his craft. He says “Lately I’ve gotten a lot of no’s but the only yes’s I’ve gotten have been in affirmation of my creative work.” Despite the fact that there is no solidified space or regular assembly for black artists on Emory’s campus, it’s clear that these individuals and many like them are committed to their craft and are thriving in their work. Whether they finding sanctity or overcoming pain with their music or simply creating as a fun past time, these students are finding a way to balance the demands of school while also finding time to do what they love as artists. As King states “We are always gonna be here. There are always gonna be artists and we are always gonna have something to say. The best way to get things across is with your art”.
Garden 2017 by Torrian Robertson, 17C
Transformation Suite By: Christell Victoria Roach
pace is not an innocent thing. It carries memory, emotion, trauma, history, and a distinct absence created by being inhabited in the first place. Space is a witness, a role player in historical trauma. Almost every major historic movement or happening has a geographically symbolic core, a place whose name conjures up the exodus, the memories, the feelings of a people. This placeâ€™s structure holds a legacy, an indent from actively being pressed with the physical imprint of the marginalized: Overtown, 16th Street Baptist Church, Ellis Island, Black Wall Street, The Freedom Tower, Lorraine Motel, 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, Whitney Plantation. These places cycled processes of violence, scrutiny, family trees breaking, suspicion, survival, and provision. This in the end created a retention that grounded itself within space. Trauma is not the only proponent in imprinting on space. Creativity and innovation transform spaces as well. Motown, The Lyric Theatre and the Apollo Theatre are just a few examples of these places that carry history. However, this conversion of space is neither solely historical or confined to pillars in black society. Any person of Christian faith is familiar with Matthew 18:20 where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am among them. Despite the religious preference of a reader or listener, it can be concluded that what is being said in this scripture is that there is a transformation of space apparent when people gather, and God, this whole other entity, formulates within that space. This immaculate transformation, I propose, is one of the many transformations black people conjure in the midst of one another. I would go as far to say, where two or three black people gather, there it is among them: it being the African spirit. A spirit of resiliency, blackness, a cultural reservoir, a homeland. This is something that people all throughout the diaspora share. 30
A fine example of this is any HBCU. Take, for example, “the Mecca” that Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks of in Between the World and Me, when he recalls the space of Howard University: “The Mecca is a machine, crafted to capture and concentrate the dark energy of all African peoples and inject it directly into the student body. The Mecca derives its power form the heritage of Howard University, which in Jim Crow days enjoyed a near-monopoly on black talent.” When gathering together at “the Mecca,”, space transforms into something unapologetically black, and unashamedly dense with the multitude of legacies each individual carries into the space. The presence created, the “dark energy” as Coates calls it, the dark matter, becomes the space. This dark matter and dark energy manifests at HBCUs across the nation, occupying space. However, this substance of black space conjures up among black students on predominantly white campuses as well. From historic grounds, to concentrations of blackness on campuses and within them, black space is a tangible thing. It transforms without transcending. It is black. Space is gravitational, it matters. And black space is not a faraway concept. It exists in barbershops and salons, in churches and corner stores, in whole neighborhoods and sections of institutions. It is space that black people have found, created, and claimed or reclaimed. It is presence in the EBSU, in the lounge of OMPS, at times it is in the Center for Women, the Black Student Alliance House, in classes on Black Love, and within any gathering of black folk. Its conjuring is communal, and extremely strategic. As university students, we are challenged to create and preserve space on a campus where it was historically never intended for us to take up space here on this campus. We sleep yards away from Hardman Cemetery, a white cemetery for early white settlers. We attend open-mic nights on the grounds where the BSA Pavilion once stood. Each day we walk the grounds of Emory as an assertion of presence. The elements of black university space exist within each of us. As we count down the days until the Dobbs University Center is gone, some of us are counting down the days until our safe spaces, our altars are gone.
Last year, Theaster Gates, a widely known African American artist based in Chicago, Illinois, came to Emory to speak on “Black Spaces.” I do not see this as a coincidence. His talk held in the space of Emory, hung like an accent on an ever-growing intellectual air here at Emory. Gates spoke on the value of black spaces and his personal process/ mission as an artist to repurpose art and create altars and sacred space. Gates’ understanding of black space is the conjuring of an essence prevalent in black communities, in spaces that have been hollowed of their societal value in the eyes of American society. Gates spoke on various project like the Dorchester Projects in Chicago. These projects reclaim space and time, and reserve them as an altar to the sanctity of that space. Gates’ sets out to take things that “no one would imagine would have value, and make them look at it, and again, and again, and again. Not that the value should be monetized, but the value should be seen.” Gates’ entire inventory as an artist consist of conjuring black space, however, we at Emory and other university campuses (especially PWI’s) are mastering his craft each year we pursue higher learning.
Poet Nickey Finney, associate and faculty member of Cave Canem, a home for black poetry, said of the nonprofits’ annual retreat that “there is no place on this planet, no ground, no air, no sanctuary, no wharf, no hermitage, no refuge, no time, like the one week each summer when Black poets descend on an unsuspecting space and it becomes Cave Canem,” (The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South). As an emerging writer finding words for her culture and people, this space is all that I desire as a black woman writer. However, in reading Finney’s words on a space desired by virtually every young black poet today, the deep longing that stirred within me is not entirely unfamiliar. This longing is like a pang of homesickness, a desire to return to a space one knows. I recognize that the space Finney is speaking of is a space I know, like the back of my hand, it, too – is black. This space is a space of acceptance, likeness, culture, experimentation, safety, love, faith, creativity, conversation, joy and pain. My interpretation of Finney’s words read as: there is nothing on this planet, no ground, no air, no sanctuary, no wharf, no hermitage, no refuge, no time, like the presence summoned when black people descend on an unsuspecting space and it becomes. Becoming is an act of transformation. When black people gather, not only does it fill in the blank space with melanin, it is revolutionary – this idea of black space. It is representation. In our nation’s history, we have seen beliefs, mindsets, attitudes, ambitions, and fears divide spaces. Be it rerouting pipes and spigots to opposing water fountains, sectioning off reserves for native peoples, redlining, liquor-lining, or color lines – division is an American custom. Despite the physical division, black people manage to transcend among one another, and create black space that is entirely accessible to people of color and entirely separate from any condition. Predominantly black neighborhoods birthed artistic movements, churches cultivated voices (from orators to vocalists), and the work of transformation has always serviced a sort of culture of definition. This definition-culture is the representation conjured in black space, that is capable of leaving it, intact, and representing black people in the larger context of society. 32
Transformation is a change of substance physically and psychologically. In the scientific definition of matter, it is defined as something that cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed (like language). Having memorized this as a child, it defines the abstract noun of transformation and verb of transforming, as the change of something that matters. Whether transformation is assigned the physical or psychological form of matter-ing, matter is the first ingredient of transformation. Affirming that Black space matters affirms the idea of transformation, the effect of black presence. So when black people gather, or in historically significant places for black people, this black presence, I propose is a “transformation suite:” a network of spaces, with a common presence, a common core in black people. Black space is not merely accessible by location, it is electronically accessible: through ‘The Black GroupMe,’ through Black class-pages, and even through Listservs for Black student groups. Emory students are able to stay connected, to create a safe-digital-space for other students, and engage in necessary conversations (both trivial and informational) through these channels. Through black student pages on Facebook, and Instagram, students who look at their university and do not see a true reflection of themselves are able to be imaged. In this way, student groups, university programs, and social groups converge as limbs of the black body on campuses.
Black space at Emory, unfortunately, is not always guaranteed space. It is active space that conjures up at Midnight Breakfast, on a black Wonderful Wednesday in February, in the EBSU after traumatic elections, at presentations and probates, and late at night in pockets of the library. As Emory students, we have the EBSU and the BSA House to assert our presence, that we matter. However, the legacy of Black Emory is the pop-up space. The claiming of space for when our presence is forgotten or taken for granted. This is important due to the engagement it demands on the side of the vastly diverse black student population. This is important because when we claim Emory, we claim one another as individuals. We claim the pre-meds, the writers, the pre-laws, the budding linguists and anthropologists. We claim the legacy of Black excellence that was introduced to Emory with the First Blacks of Emory and perpetuated by black class after black class of strivers.
In a time where virtually every marginalized person of this nation has been catapulted into politics, black space matters too. Just as we speak one language with our mouths, and another with our bodies – our lives matter, and the spaces that carry it. Polarizing and oppressive views, and divisive rhetoric triggers the memory of divided space as our bodies navigate them. This is why black space matters. When a Decatur resident only minutes from Emory’s Main Campus decides to hang sock monkeys and post problematic and irksome signs in his yard, for students of color to pass going to and from school – black space matters. When Trump chalkings sit for hours on end, as a reminder that your nation, your classmates, school policies, are not here for you – black space matters. When you are made to be the spokesperson of your race in a classroom, black space matters. We claim our space by making a conscious effort to cultivate active space: we engage with one another, we share black art, we converse on topics important to black people, we share social and professional knowledge, we account for one another in whatever way that comes. Whether it is a random jam-session in the EBSU, free food in the BSA house, a study group on the first floor of the library, a table of black scholars in the Reading Room, or a lawn of students taking a break to serve the Emory community #blackgirlmagic, and #blackboijoy. All I can say 716 Peavine Creek, 201 Dowman Drive… etc., that essence is bequeathed to each entering class. Its legacy has blueprints in the minds, bodies, and spirits of every graduating Black class.
Artwork by Kyra Oâ€™Kelley
Join the Conversation 36