UNCG’s Office of Intercultural Engagement, also known as OIE, is hosting numerous events for Black History Month throughout February. To kick things off on Thursday, OIE held their first of a two part dialogue called, “Walk in My Shoes: A Walk in Black Identity.”
Aysia Evans, OIE’S Graduate Assistant, created these month long activities as a sort of homecoming back to OIE, particularly for the African American students on campus. What better way to start this than during Black History Month?
The event started off with a game termed “the privilege walk.” In the game, participants stood in a line, with their backs facing the same way, unable to look around to see who is moving throughout the walk. Particular to this activity, was a focus on black stereotypes. Questions such as “Do you feel nervous around the police?” and “Do you live in a single parent home?” were administered to participants and if you answered yes or no, that determines whether you take a step back or remain where you are.
The whole point of this, Evans said, “[is] to unpack stereotypes and experiences African Americans face … there is a spectrum of blackness, and it needs to be realized. There is more than just simply, ‘African American’ or ‘Black.’”
The questions gave everybody a chance to really reflect on their lives and experiences to try to figure out the “why” behind each assumption. Evans brought up the idea that it is often assumed that black people grew up in a home without their father; that their father either abandoned them or was in prison.
Students of many different backgrounds came out and all supplied their own individual stories. This then allowed for an even deeper conversation, which delved into topics such as: “what does it mean to be black?” and “What role does the community play in today’s society?”
The ensuing dialogue was intelligent and meaningful. Everybody was actively participating and raising their concerns about what has ultimately and wrongfully become normal today. This then raised the question of a step for action: how can we fix this?
When 21-year-old UNCG student, Christina, answered what it meant to her to be black after the dialogue, she said, “Leaving the event I have less of a concrete answer for that, but I don’t feel like that’s actually a problem. One of the things we discussed was the abstract nature of blackness, and the question was posed that since we cannot define blackness, how can we actually have it? I feel that’s what part of blackness is. It’s so abstract, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it … it cannot be taken from us and it’s so versatile. I think that’s what blackness is. Even in nature blackness is the accumulation of everything, and that’s kind of what it is … It would be a disservice to try to pinpoint what blackness is … it’s the person, it’s the experience.”
Important conversations, games, programs and events similar to this will be taking place around campus for the remainder of Black History Month. Check out the Office of Intercultural Engagement website, intercultural.uncg.edu for more information.