Renegade Magazine | Volume 1 Issue 3 | Spring 2015

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Spring 2015 | Renegade



CON 4 5

Editor’s Letter if You Don’t Know, Now You Know




Project Grind Straighten Your Crown Twins In Tune Who Is Ose? Struggle Bus Renegade’s Choice

9 10 12 14 15 16

Our Culture Is Not A Costume

19 20

Camp Kesem FASHION


Black Man, White Frats


Natural Woman #BLACKOUT

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Founder Ibet Inyang

Web Editors


Jasmine Taylor


Editor in Chief

Earica Brooks

Natasha Amadi Managing Editor

Director of Photography

Elen Pease

Kadijah Watkins

Art Director

Social Media Director

Donye Harris F e at u r e s E d i t o r

Brooke Lewis Copy Editor

Jean Degraphe

Aaliyah Lambert Larson Bodden Elena Whittle Meagan Crawford Contributing Writers

Taylor Palmer

Amaria Dejesus Caroline Colv in Nardos Zecarias Meagan Crawford Dasia Glover



Khairi Reynolds Marketing Director

I l l u s t r at i o n

Taylor Hicks

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR From a young age we’ve been taught that imitation is the biggest form of flattery. In fact my mom put me in the same clothes as my sister – who is 5 whole years older than me – until she turned 10 and adamantly refused to wear the red checkered matching set mom bought us for Christmas. I never understood what the big deal with my mom basically ripping my sister’s style off and putting a new face on it until media outlets credited Chanel for creating “urban tie caps” aka Du-rags. Non-Black women are constantly being glorified for Black women’s features and traits – Kim and Kylie Kardashian have been praised for pioneering the big booty and full lips (both of which I’m pretty sure I had first) and where Zendaya was ridiculed by Guliana Rancic for her faux locs, Cosmopolitan called Kylie Jenner’s “STUNNING”. Cultural Spring 2015 | Renegade


appropriation is alive, well and often confusing for some people to understand. This issue also celebrates Girl Bosses – strong and independent women who are unafraid to leave their mark where ever they go. Straighten Your Crown, an all-girl organization is dedicated to mentoring young girls in the Syracuse City School District. Design students, Briana Exom and Brittany Belo are our featured designers this issue and also bring the heat with their fantastic clothes that are aimed at empowering women and never stopping. As we wrap up Spring 2015, the Renegade editorial staff reflects upon their favorite moments of the semester. Taylor Hicks, our on staff illustrator, switched her major from industrial design to illustration and felt “lifted.” This summer in the spirit of feeling lifted, I encourage you all to embrace change – whether in your wardrobe or in your life, indulge in the new and unknown – even something as small as trying out a new dish and ditch anything and anybody that tries to bring you down. Because in the words of one of my favorite TV dads of all time (Hannah Montana’s Billy Ray Cyrus) baby if you ain’t happy, it ain’t worth it. Stay fabulous guys, Tash.

if You Don’t Know, Now You Know

Brothas and sistahs are making their dreams into realities, and don’t think we haven’t noticed! Let’s shed some light on the movers and shakers who may not always be headline makers, and the stories from a culture that is strong, creative, and daring. You may not have heard…but if you don’t know, now you know. -The Renegade

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By: Jasmine Taylor In 1965, police in Selma, Alabama killed Jimmie Lee Jackson, a respected church deacon and activist for equal voting rights during a voting rights protest rally. On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 activists, including leader John Lewis, held the first Selma-to-Montgomery march in his honor. Alabama State Troopers ended the peaceful protest by attacking marchers with tear gas and billy clubs as they began to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Journalists filmed the chaos and the footage, broadcasted via several news stations, shocked the nation. The event became known as “Bloody Sunday.� On March 9 1965, Martin Luther King led more than 1,500 protesters toward Montgomery. However, the group turned around and walked back to Selma when they got to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This was part of an agreement that Martin Luther King made with the government in order to avoid

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police violence. The event became known as Turnaround Tuesday. Finally, on March 21, King led 8,000 protestors on a 5-day march from Selma to Montgomery, under the protection of the Alabama National Guard, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson. When the group arrived in Montgomery it had swelled to 25,000 members. The protestors reached the statehouse building and delivered a petition to Governor George Wallace, requesting that he grant African Americans voting rights equal to that of whites. President Johnson signed the Voting Right Act into law on August 6 Fifty years have passed since that momentous time, yet the Selma-to-Montgomery marches remain relevant to this day. On January 9,

2015 the film, Selma, based on this historical movement, was released in theaters nationwide. According to, the Ava DuVernay directed film grossed over half of its 20 million dollar budget on opening weekend. It starred renowned actors like: Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper, Common as James Bevel, and David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr.. Public outcry ensued when Oyelowo and the film itself were snubbed for an Oscar. Selma did however, win an Oscar for best original song for Glory, by artists: Common and John Legend. On March 7 2015, President Barack Obama and the rest of the First Family walked with thousands of citizens across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary

of Bloody Sunday. According to, the First Couple flanked and held hands with Congressman John Lewis, one of the activists who organized and endured the violence of the troopers during the march on Bloody Sunday. President Obama gave a speech honoring all who participated in the original march, stating, “We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod, tear gas and the trampling hoof, men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.� This event of the past and its reverence in the present has an impact on the nation as a whole, but as college students, what can we take away from this? Surely, the brave men and women of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches can serve as an

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By: Amaria Dejesus


roject G.R.I.N.D. is no secret on the Syracuse University campus. Everything from their logo stickers, to the crew’s prominent voices and successful events has planted an inspirational mark all over the university. In fact, we can all probably recite the meaning of the acronym G.R.I.N.D.: Greatest Resides In Non Stop Dedication! Jacob Friesen Grant: Junior, President and Co-Founder of Project G.R.I.N.D. David Jackson: Sophomore, Director of External Affairs & Co-founder How did Project G.R.I.N.D begin?

Jacob: It goes all the way back to 530 Slocum Apartment 4, where I used to live my sophomore year. I felt like I wanted to be apart of a mentoring organization, but centered more around the Syracuse City School District students. I talked to some of my Posse brothers and everyone came together in my apartment. We all had our own ideas, but everyone had similar

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strands of where we wanted to go with this project. We decided that if we came together, we could accomplish something impactful (sic). All of us were strong and had something to bring to the table. What is the main goal of the organization and who are you targeting?

David: All of us from the E-board are from areas where the colored male is under represented and, most of the time, aren’t offered many resources. We are targeting the underrepresented males within the Syracuse City School District, the kids that have been exposed to violent environments, institutionalized oppression, and subjected to the dominant logic fed to them by the media. What is the meaning behind the name G.R.I.N.D.?

Jacob: We want our kids to be great, but what is greatness? How do you achieve it? It’s not just one moment, but by countless moments put together. Greatness resides in nonstop dedication! By dedicating yourself and putting your all into something, that is how you become great. l

Straighten Your

CROWN By: Amaria Dejesus Straighten Your Crown, the sister organization to Project G.R.I.N.D, has recently made its presence known on campus through community engagement and youth mentorship. The queens of Straighten Your Crown aim to support and inspire our young ladies from the City of Syracuse. Shantel Destra: Sophomore, Vice President Khianna Calica: Sophomore, Historian Why did you guys start Straighten Your Crown?

Shantel: The president, Monique Witter, and I established S.Y.C. in the summer of 2014. We went into middle schools and volunteered, and saw that there was serious need for mentorship inside the Syracuse City School District. What does Straighten Your Crown mean to you and who helped you to “Straighten Your Crown”?

Khianna: Sometimes your crown can be off center or may not fit right or

you may have to grow into it. Straightening your crown just means finding a better version of yourself. My parents have empowered me and given me the tools I needed and recognized the importance of doing so. Why are you women so passionate about what you do?

Khianna: There is a rewarding feeling that comes with walking into the middle school and recognizing that these young girls are admiring you when you could have had the worst day at ‘Cuse. They look at you like you’re the most amazing person ever, especially on days when you don’t feel exactly like the person they see you as. We don’t do it for that affirmation, but we definitely want them to look in the mirror and look and admire themselves in that same way and treat other women like that. Shantel: The girls are very observant of our appearance, which really made us recognize that we are making an impact on them even when we aren’t speaking. It’s the way that we carried ourselves that empowered them. We want to teach the girls that one day you can be just as beautiful and powerful as we are. l

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Eric & Anthony McGriff use their violin and cello as instruments for change.


By: Nardos Zecarias

Many young adults pick up a microphone and convey a message through dialogue, usually adding on a beat – rhythmic, yes. Some people pick up a ball and dribble it in between their legs, throwing it into a round hoop– steadfast, yes. Few individuals master three sets of arm reaches into the pantry, fridge, and microwave to race back to the couch with a snack before the commercial ends – [teeth] grinding at it’s finest, yes. Eric and Anthony McGriff pick up a bow and straighten their backs to wave their arms side to side as if they were showing off the flag that raised them, the flag that defended them, and the flag that they’ll willingly stand at the front line for to fight the battle against domestic violence, abuse, and ignorance. If you compliment one of them, you are undoubtedly complimenting the other one. Eric and Anthony McGriff,

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two brothers – twins for that matter – grew up in Syracuse, New York in a white suburban community that was everything but indifferent to these up-and-coming local stars. Although they picked up instruments at 10 years of age, they didn’t begin playing for events (weddings, meetings, banquets) until 15. When asked what they represented behind the instruments, The McGriff brothers harmoniously responded “advocates.” “Some people wake up to the sound of their alarm clock, some people wake up to their parents fighting,” Anthony stated while reiterating the importance of respecting others, acknowledging social problems in daily conversation, and beating the stereotypical male characteristics. “We seek validation from other men to tell us that we’re men … we’re not just standing up for women’s rights; what men don’t realize is these are men’s problems,” Eric said while


swhile tuning the strings on his violin. If two human rights advocates disguised behind the same face, a cello and a violin doesn’t persuade you to call them up and perform at your brother’s bar mitzvah, your uncle’s wedding, or your home girl’s bachelorette party, imagine the style of their sound of music being documented like this – ‘ releases new track: “McGriff Brothers ft. Beethoven and Fetty Wap – Ode to the Trap Queen.”

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By: Megan Iris Crawford When asked to explain his name, ose. said he wants his listeners to know that his name is a true reflection of himself and his music. He gives his Nigerian roots great credit in contributing to his distinctive sound. Outside of his music, ose. "goes wherever the wind takes me,” which as an artist leads to more expression because inspiration can come from just about anything. ose. admits that he spends a lot of time alone, which, on a college campus, can be quite difficult. He describes himself as introspective but his music is his voice. "You don't necessarily have to be lonely, to be alone…You could be


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lonely in a room full of people,” he said. He emphasizes the importance of collecting his thoughts while absorbing and analyzing his experiences. It all depends on one's state of mind and having meaningful communication with ourselves. A word of advice from ose. is to choose your friends wisely. Pertaining particularly to business transactions and artistic collaborations, ose. explains that one must feel comfortable with that person as an individual before exploring any of those intimate realms with them. He warned not to work with an artist or any person in life just for the sake of the final project. "Keep good people around you,” he advised. He regrets however not experimenting with his music at an earlier age. One of his biggest musical influences is Kanye West. West’s daring approach to his music helped to develop hip‐hop into a mainstream genre as well as a culture that people strongly follow. Upon listening to ose.’s album “Upstate EP”, a sense of familiarity is evoked. He told Renegade that most of the lyrics were written over the summer

but were produced/recorded here at the University. Particular tracks such as Transparent and Upstate have a warm vibe while holding some remnants of Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi. Crash ft. Maricelis has a more distinct bass and get in tune with the raw feelings often associated with love.

himself. l

The whole album is immersed in lyrical flows with melodic beats. So who is ose.? ose. is music, a true reflection of Spring 2015 | Renegade


By Daisia Glover SU Students collaborate to create scripted web series and it is a hit. This semester, a group of students on campus premiered a scripted YouTube web series called “Struggle Bus.” So far, there are two episodes, both showing the tangled personal lives of college students at Syracuse University. The series follows a group of friends and the complicated relationships they form with one another. Inspired by their own experiences and stories of others, co-writers and producers, Cadienne Obeng and Jonathan Wigfall, saw the opportunity to do something new on campus and created the web series. They called for actors and actresses by posting videos on YouTube and Instagram, as well as by word of mouth. They encouraged their friends: Alyssa Hudson, casted as Joelle, and Christian Eatman, playing Gilbert, to audition. “I’ve always enjoyed acting and stuff like that so I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?,” Hudson said. “And I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s really fun.” Obeng and Wigfall keep the show fresh and relevant to SU students by developing the story line and writing the script as they go on. “Not only do we get attention for what we’re doing, but we’re delivering messages that people can relate

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to and we’re doing it better with every episode,” Wigfall said. Obeng, who also acts in the series as Cree, reminisced on the beginning stages of developing the show, saying that they did not know what to expect; now about a month after its premiere, the first episode has over 2,000 views on YouTube. Struggle Bus plans to continue adding new characters as time passes. A few of their actors and team members will be graduating this semester, so Obeng and Wigfall will continue depicting their complex stories with fresh faces. One of their long-term goals is to expand Struggle Bus beyond Syracuse and perhaps create a network with other colleges and universities. Obeng noted the challenges they face during production. “We’re all students, so we all have a lot going on,” she said. “It’s definitely not the easiest thing to do, but it’s definitely a really valuable learning experience.” They also discussed the chemistry and friendship between the characters and creative team. “Everyone was really cool with working with one another,” said Wigfall. “Everyone got to know each other even more…that really translated on camera.” The Struggle Bus team aims to show students that everyone goes through complex relationships and that they are not going through the struggle. l



THIS SEMESTER National Orange Day, because it gave me and a friend a fun excuse to take selfies while decked out in SU’s favorite color--and eat oranges! Jasmine Taylor Attending the Posse Plus Retreat because it gave me the confidence to openly share my opinions with others in an open and safe space. Earica Parrish When I came to my senses, and dropped my previous major. Once I

dropped and started my new major, I felt lifted. Taylor Hicks Finally getting to perform in the musical I rehearsed for for three months, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. My cast and I were great! -Daisia Glover he GUF concert because I got to stand front row and Travis Scott smiled at me. Fanta Cherif

Joining Renegade because this magazine is empowering and cool as hell. - Caroline Colvin Traveling to NYC with the Magazine Department and seeing the King and I on broadway. -Brooke Lewis Getting my classes together to graduate in Fall 2015 with my Master’s in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism. Navi Johnson Meeting new people and connecting with old friends before graduation. It’s been a phenomenal four years and a great semester to conclude my Syracuse experience. - Taylor Palmer As a senior, I’ve treasured every single day of this semester! The people, parties, Renegade mag, and even the snow, I loved it all. But I can’t wait for what’s next. - Jasmine Holloway

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By: Caroline Colvin

With people hailing from Africa, the Caribbean, and all over the diaspora, Black culture and Black experiences are rich. As a culture characteristic for its: food, music, fashion, lexicon and jargon, Vines, history and struggle – Black people have endured, accomplished, and added much to the world. Our culture is so fantastic that many who are not Black feel inclined to borrow from it. From the rap star, Eminem, to our peers trying to appear “down” by using the N-word. It’s Katy Perry’s and Ke$ha’s afro-centric braids, slicked baby hairs, and hoop earrings that are borrowed from black culture. It’s Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian being credited with the glorification of big booties and big lips. It’s Ricardo Tisci mimicking the Mexican Chola aesthetic for Givenchy and Chanel while introducing the “urban cap” – I’m sorry, did you mean the do-rag? Spring 2015 | Renegade


This is cultural appropriation – the adaptation of a minority culture’s qualities by a majority cultural group. In America, its most popular form is the commercialization and commodification of Black culture by outsiders to our culture. Still, it doesn’t start and end with Black culture. All kinds of minorities, including Indians and Native Americans, have been subject to cultural theft by the majority. This appropriation invariably has a marketing or profit motive. Recognition of cultural appropriation seems to be a recent practice even though cultural appropriation goes back much further than today’s modern insults and injustices. Herbert G. Ruffin II, an associate professor in Syracuse University’s African American Studies program, has traced the history of cultural appropriation of Black folks to the early nineteenth century. “Going back to 1829, Thomas D. Rice would mock people enslaved on plantations. Rice was originally from New York

would mock people enslaved on plantations. Rice was originally from New York City. He went up and down the Ohio Valley, he would then travel south for his comedy material, and then would go to Europe to perform in blackface, minstrelsy,” said Ruffin. “Crucial to that appropriation was the fact that you had white working class people – European immigrants who were going through their own anxieties. One way that they eased their own tension was in mimicking Black folks. ‘Somehow, we’re going to feel good about ourselves.’ And then you create that divide and then everything else follows behind that.” Ruffin stated.

On a similar note, Ruffin referenced the 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, which is often celebrated in the film industry for its script-writing and high-tech filming, but seldom criticized for the fact that its Black cast was made up of white people in blackface. Unfortunately, as blatantly insidious as it is, blackface is still common to this day. Certainly, a number of runways, music videos, and photo shoots have employed the dark silver face paint, but scrolling through the #NotJustSAE tag on

Twitter will show you that blackface at themed fraternity parties is still common. Alexa Diaz, a Syracuse University Magazine Journalism major, is a Mexican American. Diaz has faced her fair share of cultural appropriation on SU’s campus; she recalled two instances where she witnessed her culture being borrowed and mocked at the hands of white students. “Here comes October and it’s Halloween night,” said Diaz of the first incident. “... And everyone comes out in a sombrero and a tacky stick-on mustache. Honestly, it is disgusting because white about how much they love Mexican food, and then appropriate our culture.” The second incident occurred when Diaz accidentally walked into a Mexican-themed party. “There was a poster of a barrio on the wall. This guy was wearing a sombrero and a poncho… It is just so gross,” Diaz recounted. “I’m walking around this party and I’m so frustrated because the majority of the people don’t see anything wrong with it. (continued) Spring 2015 | Renegade


If they do, they aren’t going to speak up about it. I was literally the only Mexican girl there, I’m 90 percent sure.” Diaz explained how she tried to confront a boy about it, but could not get through to him. “I told him, ‘Okay, but it’s not right, because you are stealing this culture and you’re putting it on like it’s literally a costume and making a joke out of it so you can get drunk with your friends.’ And then he responded, ‘It’s all in good fun,’” Diaz said. “As in, it’s just something that you can do for three hours and then it never matters again, which is really heartbreaking” she added. Professor Ruffin also touched on the phenomenon of white people infiltrating Hip-Hop. In 1981, the first “rap” song to top the chart came from Debbie Harry in Blondie’s “Rapture.” A white woman in a new wave punk band served as mainstream America’s first taste of Black culture, as actual Black artists rarely appeared in white America’s spotlight at the time. “The first time that any kind of white people had heard anything coming out of the hood was when they listened to Blondie’s ‘Rapture,’” said Ruffin. “The reason why they did not hear anything was largely because MTV, when they first started out, would never play anything Black.” Spring 2015 | Renegade


Unlike Debbie Harry, whose foray into rap was novel but brief, T.I.’s misguided protégée, Iggy Azalea, has dived headlong into cultural appropriation. Not only is Iggy Azalea’s proficiency in question, but her so-called “blaccent,” culturally insensitive tweets, and lack of authenticity are questionable as well. Azaleans and other supporters of cultural-borrowing will defend cultural appropriation with a host of arguments, to the tune of “Black people don’t have a monopoly on Black culture” and “imitation is the best form of flattery,” as if we should be grateful that white people dig our culture. However, what they fail to realize is that Black looks, sounds, and features are our history and our life, not some music video get-up or a Hollywood shock tactic. We do not exist to be fetishized, especially not by those who have oppressed us. By donning our culture like a costume, non-Blacks highlight us as “the other” against them. Therefore, we are no longer perceived and treated as equal. It is disheartening because Black culture appears to be more accepted when presented by non-Black people. Cultural appropriation may well be considered a form of racism. That said, the solution to the cultural appropriation is tricky. l

by Earica Parrish For 47-year-old Michelle Wilkinson, Camp Kesem was a blessing to her and her sons. “I was told about the program through a woman name Kathy that I met going through cancer, “says Wilkinson. “I sent my boys to the camp last year and they had a blast.” With more than 3 million children living with a parent with cancer, Camp Kesem’s national program dedicates their time to support these children through a weeklong summer camp experience. There are currently 54 chapters of Camp Kesem that exist across the United States. The Syracuse University chapter of Camp Kesem was founded in 2012, and works towards raising money for the week-long summer program. Taylor Weaver, a junior CRS major and the public relations and marketing chair of Camp Kesem, says that this will be her first year attending the summer program as a counselor. ”When I joined the organization, I thought to myself ‘Wow, before I never thought about kids who parent has cancer and what [the child] has to go through,” Weaver said. According to Weaver, parents can

enroll their children to attend the program for free. The purpose of these fundraisers during the school year are to ensure that parents don’t have to pay out of pocket in order to have their kids enrolled at Camp Kesem in the summer. “These kids are like an under looked population,” says Weaver. “I think that [Camp Kesem] is something that is really special.”

Weaver manages the organization’s Twitter and Facebook pages. Through social media, parents like Wilkinson provide a lot of positive feedback based on their children’s reactions and feelings about their experience with the program. “I’m very grateful for Camp Kesem and what they have done in helping our cancer community,” said Wilkinson. “They have helped make a difference and connect kids thru the command thread of cancer.” l Spring 2015 | Renegade


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By: Amaria Dejusus

Two students discuss their experiences as brothers in a white fraternity. We live in a culture where recurring cases of racism are swept under the rug and dismissed as unfortunate, sporadic. This culture does not reflect the reality of the situation. In particular, the media has been flooded with disturbing fraternity incidents such as the Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon racist chant and “Cripmas” party at Clemson University. Regardless, historically white frats are becoming more and more infused with colored brothers as the years go by. Are these brothers any “less Black” because of their decision to pledge to white fraternities?

said Michael*. He sums up his experience in a white fraternity as, “You talk to them and you are just another human being.” Michael believes it is important for people to understand that just because a Black guy doesn’t pledge to a Black fraternity, it doesn’t mean that they have rejected their Black identity and culture.

The bigger question is, why a white fraternity? Several factors such as growing up surrounded by people of different backgrounds and races may have been an influential factor for some. “It isn’t hard for me to fit in, I was acquainted with the culture long before college,”

“racial tens ions til s doesn’t mean wh put side a theseiffed gether, sharing a a life time.”

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“I am immersed in the Black community through clubs, organizations and other friend groups. I really just wanted to step away from that and expand my college experiences and opportunities,” Michael said to clear up any misconceptions. “I try to switch up my friend groups. One weekend I’ll party with my frat

brothers, and the next weekend I’ll be chilling with my Black friends. It’s never set in stone for me.” However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a disconnection between the two races. “[White fraternity brothers] don’t fully understand Black issues. When I bring up discussions like SAE you can tell that it sparks uneasy, insensitively unknowledgeable reactions because most of them may not be used to growing up around diverse groups of people,” said Michael as he reflected on the cultural barriers that racial identity provides. “Their environment probably allowed them to be unaware. But I do have brothers who will back me up and respect my point of view.”

ll exi st but t tha hite and ck men Bla an’tc erences d and come oaque unibro therhood orf

Another Black brother from a different fraternity noted an experience he had with this same issue. “During the Mike Brown demonstration in Bird Library, some of my white brothers didn’t agree with what was going on,” said James*. “They just complained that they were trying to study and seemed to be annoyed by the whole thing. They failed to recognize that there was a significant cause for what was going on.” One can imagine that these experiences would make these two wish they were brothers in a Black fraternity. Both agreed that strolling or stepping is one of the elements of Black fraternities that they are missing out on. “I don’t wish that white frats incorporated that into their routines because that’s what makes us all different and special in our own way,” states James, “Also, honestly I’m not sure how good or entertaining that would be.” It is evident that racial tensions still exist but that doesn’t mean white and Black men can’t put aside these differences and come together, sharing a unique brotherhood for a lifetime. In fact, there is something to be admired and respected about Black brothers who recognize who they are individually but also confront racial boundaries and challenge the typical stereotypes of being


Black in a white fraternity. l*Subject’s name has been changed to protect his privacy Spring 2015 | Renegade



U T nA


oft, black, kinky coils sit on top of my head. Each coil is unique, as am I. My hair means more to me than the way I style it or the fact that it is just hair. Because it isn’t just hair; it is a symbol of who I am: a proud African American woman. As a little girl, I always struggled with the appearance of my hair. I used to wish that I could trade in my short, “nappy” hair for long straight hair. I would ask my parents to buy me hair products that would detangle my hair and make it grow. I also remember begging them to let me get a perm or texturizer to keep my hair permanently straight. Looking back on that time period in my life, I can understand why I felt so ashamed of my hair. Girls like me were very rarely portrayed in the media as beautiful. Most often, white women graced the covers of magazines and were the stars of the majority of television shows and movies.

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Even the media depictions of women of color did not look like me; their hair was straight. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t anyone have hair like me? I didn’t become comfortable with my natural hair until I was forced to cut it all off about three years ago. It was my sixteenth birthday and I had just gotten back from a study abroad program in Spain. I was so excited to take out

“When I see myself, I don’t only see a Black person, I see a Black woman." the box braids that I had kept in for three weeks. It was my first time having those types of braids so I didn’t know that I had to thoroughly detangle my hair before I washed it. As I tried to comb my hair while the conditioner was in, I encountered some huge knots in my hair that just wouldn’t detangle. So my only choice at that moment was to cut it all off.



It took a lot of getting used to but eventually I came to appreciate my new haircut. I learned new natural hairstyles and started using different products, which actually made my hair grow faster and healthier. Now, I love my hair. I love wearing my afro and I love the versatility of styles I can do. I recently shaved the sides and now my afro has an edge to it. I love the way my hair feels: soft, like a pillow, so I’ve been told. My acceptance of my natural hair has affected the person I am today because that was the barrier that stood in the way of my full acceptance of my race. Not only is it the type of hair that reflects being African American, it is also the hair that God gave me. I can only be thankful for that. When I see myself, I don’t only see a Black person, I see a Black woman. I always loved being a woman but as I got older I began to see the reality of gender roles and the stereotypes that go with them. Being an African American and a woman placed me into two different minority groups in American society. To me, that just meant that I had

to work twice as hard to prove that I was at the same level of the majority. When I think about what has influenced my understanding of my identity throughout my life, I think about the obstacles that society has placed in my path and how I have overcome them. I think about the people that expected me, and people like me, to fail simply because I am a Black woman, and how I have disproved those expectations. When I think about my success as an African American woman, I feel proud because I know that without both of those aspects of my identity, I would not be who I am. When I was younger, my mom bought me a book called Happy to be Nappy. And although I read it a bunch of times as a child, I never connected with it because I really wasn’t happy with the texture of my hair. Now after my life experiences, I have learned to be proud of my kinky hair because it reflects who I am as a Black woman. And just like my hair, when stretched and pulled as far as I can bear, I bounce back. l Spring 2015 | Renegade


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