Writer Mia McKenzie Speaks on Identity During Queerfest Keynote

Rachel Lima, Maroon-News Staff

Last Monday, April 6, Mia McKenzie delivered the Queerfest keynote address at 7 p.m. in Love Auditorium. The event was organized by Advocates. Queerfest, the annual series on Colgate’s campus to raise awareness about the LGBTQ community, began on Tuesday, March 31 and ended on Friday, April 10. The theme for this year was intersectionality of identities, bringing numerous speakers of differing religions, races and ethnicities to speak about their personal experiences with their intersecting identities. 

By combining with different organizations, such as Lounge and the Women’s Studies Brown Bag Series, the Advocates hoped to reach members of the community who may not have otherwise attended these events.

Mia McKenzie, a West Philadelphian currently residing in the Bay Area, opened her keynote address by providing the audience with five facts about herself: she’s black, queer, a woman, an Aries and, finally, none of these facts about her identity can be separated. 

McKenzie studied writing at the University of Pittsburgh and since then has started an online blog called Black Girl Dangerous, which is a forum for expression that embodies the voices and experiences of queer and trans people of color. Although it started as a tumblr page in response to McKenzie’s ex-girlfriend saying that black people are scary, Black Girl Dangerous currently reaches over five million readers and has included pieces from over 200 diverse writers from three different countries. 

McKenzie broke her keynote address down into five different parts with numerous subsections, all of which discussed different aspects of her life and childhood that contributed to her being gay, such as fantasy films from the ’70s, as well as church camp. 

In the fifth and final part of her speech, McKenzie left the audience with six pieces of advice: grow a thick skin, accept that some people just suck, never read the comments, forgive your mother, educate yourself and always buy more snacks. McKenzie concluded her keynote address with a reading of one of her poems, “An Open Love Letter to Folks of Color,” which attempts to capture the universal experiences for people of color at

predominantly white institutions.

Students who attended McKenzie’s lecture responded positively to what she had to say.

“Mia McKenzie was excellent! She blended a nice amount of sarcasm and wit, keeping the audience laughing at all times. I really liked what she had to say about respectability and how we shouldn’t have to act a certain way just to get others to listen,” sophomore Jake Mahr said.

Other Students sympathized with McKenzie’s story and spoke about similar struggles.

“I loved that Mia McKenzie was able to articulate the ways her queer identity is a part of her black identity and vice versa. It was a great expression of intersectionality, which is the Queerfest theme for this year,” junior Emily Rubey said.

Sophomore Michael James, one of the coordinators of Queerfest, also commented on McKenzie’s inclusion of intersectionality in her discussion.

 “Her speech in general got exactly to what I had hoped it would in terms of intersectionality. I loved her point about being all of these things queer, black, a writer, etc. at once inseparably. That’s something as a queer black Caribbean student on this campus that I sometimes struggle with,” James said.