by Malik Voyard ‘19, Oury Bah ‘20 & Jonathan Bujambi ‘20
The 2017-2018 academic year has almost ended. And as Black male collegians and active members of the Stonehill Community, we have experienced the very real negative impact of many of the assaults that communities of color, including immigrants, the indigenous, LGBTQIA+ people and other marginalized communities have been facing. We stand in solidarity with all such groups! We are in this together!
Given the continued increase in the public visibility of the assault, incarceration, and death of Black and Brown people, as well as the negative narratives, we wanted to take the time to celebrate the excellence, brilliance, magnificence and contributions of some members of the Stonehill community. These individuals have been central to our experiences navigating what it means to be Black on this campus, in this country, and world at this time of social media-facilitated visibility of public acts of anti-blackness. We are grateful to our friends, classmates, professors, and administrators for support over the last academic year and hope that they read this article with pride in our growth as recipients of the liberal arts education Stonehill provides. In this article, we honor every Black and Brown or otherwise marginalized person on this campus. We seek to highlight the magnificence of a few Black students, faculty, and staff—which we would like to call Blacknificence. But let’s be clear, Blacknificence is the norm not the exception.
Graduating Black Student Leaders & Scholars
First, we honor the work of our graduating seniors, thank you for your academic and co-curricular contributions to the Stonehill College Community. Roberte Francois served as the President of the Afro-Caribbean Club (ACC), and her leadership was helpful throughout the year. This was particularly evident in her planning and facilitation of the recently concluded dynamic and powerful ACC soiree. Azariah Boyd served as co-coordinator of Radiant, Inspirational, Sisters Empowered (RISE) and she choreographed the “Latin Meets Africa” dance in this year’s 10th Annual DiverCity Festival. The performance was solid in social commentary, electrifying in energy, as well as cathartic in helping us cope with our grievances against the losses of and prejudice against brothers and sisters in the past year. It was not a surprise that both Roberte and Azariah were recipients of 2018 Class Leadership Awards. Congratulations!
We also want to appreciate Jermel Wright, Yusif Samudeen, and Aaron Yemane, who served as great leaders for Men of Service Academia Integrity and Character (MOSAIC); our sunday night meetings were central to building community, even when we felt disconnected and mentally scarred. Thank you all! Your leadership has been crucial and inspiring for all women, men, and non-gender conforming people of color on campus.
And congratulations to all the Brilliant-Black minds who are a part of the Stonehill College graduating Class of 2018! Special congratulations to 2018 President’s Cup recipient Cristianie DePina and all other award recipients from the 2018 graduating class.
Deeply saddened by many of the troubling events that have taken place in our country during the previous weeks, many students were encouraged, informed, and inspired by two significant events on campus recently. As many may recall, over the last few weeks, racial biases resurfaced in the public eye, and further showed us the prevalence of systemic racism in our day to day lives. A few of these incidents include:
- The Starbucks incident where two Black men were arrested when waiting for a business meeting and the police apology that followed
- The killing of 21-year-old DeEbony Groves, 20-year-old Joe R. Perez, 29-year-old Taurean C. Sanderlin, and 23-year-old Akilah DaSilva (1 Blackwoman, 1 Latinx man and 2 Black men), by 29-year-old Travis Reinking (a European-American man), and the altruistic act of 29-year-old James Shaw, Jr. (a Black man) to stop a Nashville Waffle House shooting); as well as
- The physical assault, arrest, and exposure of Chikesia Clemons, 25 at a Waffle House.
These are just a few of the troubling incidents that have impassioned many of us as students who are driven by our vigorous commitments to social justice at Stonehill and in the wider world. Unfortunately, this article cannot address every incident at this time but we urge those who want to know more to research and stay informed.
In light of these aforementioned disheartening events, we feel it is necessary to mention the significance of experiencing the conclusion of the IDEAS course entitled “The New Black Wall Street” on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Yusif Samudeen ‘18, stated that he felt empowered by the course and panel, and that he believes that change starts by “educating ourselves, representing ourselves, and continuing to fight for respect and equal opportunities in America”.
Additionally, the enriching Afro-Caribbean Soirée on Friday, April 27, 2018 provided attendees with a celebration of cultures that span across the African diaspora and beyond. In her feedback on the keynote by Professor Savage, Azariah Boyd ‘18, said, “I think it was a great way to lead a discussion about racial issues while providing students with a way of analyzing race from a different perspective or outside of typical context.”
These experiences were both invigorating and timely for providing our community with learning experiences that were both stimulating for mental and spiritual growth, in line with Stonehill’s education of the heart and mind. We also wanted to take the time to honor: Professors Callie Watkins Liu (Sociology) and Shawn Savage (Education); Director Lee Farrow (Center for Non-Profit Management, Martin Institute); Director Constanza (“Connie”) Cabello, and Assistant Director Patrick Hale (Office of Intercultural Affairs). Your contributions throughout the year(s), and especially this last month have made us stronger and able to persist through finals. Thanks!
Meaningful Learning & Mentorships
Speaking of finals and motivation, it was extremely meaningful and empowering, during this 2017-2018 academic year, to have Faculty of Color and (for the purposes of this uplift and honoring article) Black faculty in particular, as professors and mentors. The three Black faculty who joined the Stonehill community in more-connected capacities this year, have been pillars of strength for so many of us, inside and outside of the classroom. Professor Callie Watkins Liu of Sociology & Criminology, Professor Shani Turner of Psychology, and Professor Shawn Savage of Education have really influenced us intellectually, motivated us academically, and supported us socially.
Nithalle Simoly ‘19 explained her experience with Professor Turner the Director for her upcoming psychology internship. She said, “having Professor Turner as my internship advisor is really encouraging because I feel like I have someone who I can relate to and who will help me succeed!”
The sentiment conveyed by Simoly is felt across the community of students of color at Stonehill about other Faculty of color generally, and Black Faculty, specifically. But we also feel that the impact of these professors extends beyond the classroom and enters realms greater than Stonehill. They are mentors and examples of what it looks like to be a Black person navigating and excelling in a predominantly white institution– without losing your identity in the process. They guide us through the shock of entering classrooms and social gatherings where we are the racially and culturally minoritized; enlightening us on ways to maneuver such environments that all too often feel unnatural. When asked about her experience taking Professor Turner’s course, Otilia Monteiro ‘19 said:
Having a professor of color, specifically a woman of color, offered a perspective and dialogue in class that I needed my first year [but didn’t get]. Being able to have a Professor that can identify with and who validates my perspective and experiences was so impactful and created a dialogue that I felt was necessary in class.
Such comments highlight how our Black professors provide us with a level of security to be more immersed in the educational process. This and other reflective thoughts were shared by many other students. For example, when speaking on the importance of mentorship relationships from his Black professors as a first year student, Jean-Claude Ndayisabye ‘21 said, “these type of relationships and represented community are what make us thrive here at Stonehill.”
I (Oury Bah) can testify that with the guidance of Professor Savage, I have been pushed to bring out, and enhance my full potential to do well in college. Although at times I felt the limitations of my background held me back from being my best, with Professor Savage helps me to continue even in the face of struggle. Not only has he been a mentor to me, he also helped me develop a strong work ethic as a student and greater consciousness as a young man. Honestly speaking, without his guidance I would not be able to do as well as I am today both academically and as a person of color attending a predominantly white institution. For real, I would not still be at Stonehill College if it weren’t for Professor Savage.
So to all our Black faculty thank you for everything you have done and continue to do. We honor you!
Finals have concluded and we have moved out (sadly), so we better wrap this up so we can be ready to tackle the summer with the energy of 1,000 suns. We simply wanted to lift up and honor everyone else who has been pressing on and surviving despite systemic racism and its material effects. So all the best for your future endeavors, whether you are leaving Stonehill or returning in the fall.
We hope to continue all of these well-needed conversations, teaching and mentoring relationships, and community building efforts as we continue to represent and celebrate Black Excellence in all its Blacknificence at Stonehill College and everywhere else. #blacknificence #blackexcellence #stonehillcollege
Stay tuned for more musings from us in semesters to come…. For now, peace in the middle of South Side Chicago!
See the following links below to learn more about the highlights of Blacknificence shared by Malik, Oury, and Jonathan:
- The Close of IDEAS Course “The New Black Wall Street”
- Afro-Caribbean Soirée 2018: Profound People, Profound Purpose.
- Real Talk, Real Walk: Learning and Mentorship with Black Faculty