Panelists Share Their Experiences Identifying as Students of Color

Last Tuesday, February 10, the annual Women’s Studies Brown Bag, “Black Identities,” was held in the Women’s Studies Lounge. The event consisted of a panel of five students who wanted to share their experience of being black with the Colgate community. The panel was made up of students varying in age, gender and cultural identity in order to represent numerous perspectives. Senior Solomon Tesfaye, junior Alexandria Davis, sophomores Dayna Campbell and Sharon Nicol and first-year Jabarie Ajao all spoke at the event.

“We tried to get a variety of black identities rooted in different cultural, historical and geographical contexts,” Davis said.

Although this panel has not always taken place in February – Black History Month – the Black Student Organization (BSU) wanted to be involved in organizing the Brown Bag for this February. The BSU played a large role in arranging the panelists as well as the questions that were asked during the Brown Bag.

The panel was mediated by Women’s Studies Program Assistant and alumna Che Hatter ‘13, who asked questions about how the panelists self-identify, what influences their culture, as well as their views on how blackness intersects with gender and whether current global and national events have recently changed their views on racial justice. At the end of the panel discussion, the floor opened up for questions from the audience. 

One of the questions that someone in the audience asked was about what it is like to be a part of a large group as well as smaller groups that the panelists self identify with. Each panel member had the opportunity to answer each question presented.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about who we wanted on the panel. The panelists did a great job being honest and expressing their thoughts and opinions. Overall, I thought that it was a good brown bag, and I’m very thankful to Women’s Studies for hosting it for us,” BSU member senior Aja Isler said.

“I wanted to speak on the panel simply because I had something to say and something to share. I wanted to let people know that I love being black and more specific[ally], Afro-American. I thought the presentation itself went very well; however, I would have liked more questions from the crowd,” Davis said.

“I joined the panel to support a friend who helped organize it. I’m discouraged by the lack of discussion on black cultures and identities; however, the Brown Bag gave me a chance to express part of who I am in a truthful manner rather than with the prevalent false conceptions,” Ajao said.

Students who attended the panel commented positively on the event.

“I really liked the idea behind it, and it was interesting and important to see the wide variety of past experiences that led people both to Colgate and to that brown bag. The whole brown bag seemed inherently very personal, and I really respected individuals sharing that much of themselves,” sophomore Blaise Desnoes said.

“I thought our panelists were incredibly moving. Overall, I took away a lot from the brown bag, even on a personal level, and would recommend others come to more brown bags,” junior Charles Polk said.