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A Great Lakes Colleges Association initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
bbryan@antiochcollege.edu
 

Interviews With Color

Interviews With Color is a project inspired and sparked by recent events on the Antioch College campus. The project explores the culture of people of color (POC) on campus, as well as the way POC are treated in situations of injustice. One trend prevalent throughout these interviews was a request for a POC hall as a remedy for multiple acts of injustice involving womyn of color on campus. According to some POC, the request was originally brushed off, resulting in student-led action calling public attention to recent injustices experienced by POC.
POC

Jasmine, Noella, Odette, Ashley, Leandre, Gabe, Ishan, Max (left to right) during a meeting between POC students and the President’s Staff as well as a Res Life Representative, and a Board Member. This meeting was facilitated by Mila Cooper during a community meeting as a way to engage in meaningful dialogue.

While College leadership responded quickly with an action plan, the issues raised by POC remain unresolved and the response is seen by many as untimely. The goal of this oral history project is to document our community members’ experiences of the housing situation, exploring the ways in which POC feel that this request would bring a sense of community, a safety net, and a unique experience that fights against the social constructs of racism and encourages cultural diversity.
The intention is to make the voices and needs of POC on campus heard, as well as to explore the ways in which racism manifests on this college campus. The resulting archive of narratives is being published and shared as a means of catalyzing dialogue within the Antioch community.

Background Information

As people of color, many of us have had the experience of several acts of violent racism in our lives, and life at Antioch has not broken that terrible tradition. While incidents of this nature happen everyday all over, it is important to have zero tolerance for even slight offensive acts. While I will not go into detail about exactly what happened at Antioch here, it’s important to know that things happened and were harmful to POC students. These acts were brought to the attention of college leadership, but students felt there was no action. A letter and set of demands was sent out by POC, receiving an action plan proposed by our new President Tom Manley in response. Dates were set and POC students (and others) worked and waited to see that these plans were not only followed through with, but effective in dismantling racism on our small liberal arts campus.

However, as things started to look up, the request for a POC hall was denied, leaving many POC unsettled. It felt as if the wider community’s opinions weighed more than the opinions of the people— the students—who were being oppressed and actively living through racism in their daily lives on campus.

In response POC planned a ‘Day of Disappearance’. This consisted of POC coming together and disappearing for the day, leaving the white community to wonder where we were. This of course would only be effective if people even noticed that a whole group of people were missing from campus. POC also invited all POC faculty to join us for a few hours to have meaningful dialogue about why we felt the POC hall was necessary, since the idea raised many concerns even within the POC group. This event proved to be very healing for many POC on campus as well as gave us a chance to connect with our professors on a level that we often don’t have time to stop and explore.

As many POC on Antioch’s campus continue to push for this hall, we make sure our voices are heard during meetings, and through emails. A final decision has yet to be officially made but we are working from the position of a ‘yes,’ which keeps the work that is being done hopeful as we strive for change.

As part of involving the voices of POC students, Mari Smith and I conducted several interviews over the course of the quarter. I saw it important to document the feelings and opinions of POC, especially since their opinions are often the ones pushed to the side. These interviews can be heard in full on a podcasting tool (Podigee) that was utilized to showcase each individual in their own episode. The audio that you will hear was unedited, we are not perfect. From fumbling with the mic to fumbling over our own thoughts, words, and ideas these are presenting the raw reality of POC at Antioch College.

Please take the time to really listen to these voices of your community. Listen at work, in the car, before bed, or when you wake up with a cup of coffee. Try to integrate deep listening into your routine and pay respect to the POC you probably see on a daily basis.

Please click here to see the project, and begin to listen.

For inquiries or questions, contact Alyssa Navarrette at anavarrette@antiochcollege.edu

Written by

Alyssa Navarrette is part of the class of 2019 at Antioch College, who fulfilled her first co-op opportunity as a digital archives coordinator with OHLA, as well as a part-time marketing and special events intern at Little Art Theatre. She has basic skills in media, technology, and marketing. She also has experience in many leadership and teamwork positions from the past stemming from various organizations, for example: SkillsUSA Texas. She is particularly excited to bring her past experiences, and skills into the projects that OHLA has brought to the table as well as gain experience as a digital archivist for oral historians.

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