Category Archives: Student Affairs

3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture

Aleidra’s piece is featured on watchtheyard.com.

Should Black Greek-Letter Organizations (BGLOs) teach white, non-BGLO people how to step? This is an ongoing question and debate within the BGLO community, and honestly, I understand all the various perspectives.

With that, I understand that teaching stepping and strolling to non-BGLO members has become a popular collegiate norm. So for our members that are partaking in this new college tradition, here’s my piece,  3 Ways to Share Our Stepping & Strolling Traditions without Giving Away Our Culture, to help you do so in a meaningful way.

#EverydayBlackHistory Day 3- Mary Jane Patterson

MJPToday, many Black women make the decision
to continue their education at institutions
of higher learning. Whether attending a historically black college or university (HBCU) or a predominately white institution (PWI), countless black women are succeeding, and sprinkling #BlackGirlMagic all around campus. But who did this first?

Mary Jane Patterson was the first Black women to receive a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She received her degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio in 1862.

While it is not certain, it is believed that Mary Jane Patterson was born into slavery in Raleigh, NC in 1840, moving to Oberlin as a teenager. She completed college preparatory courses at Oberlin College in 1857. But when it was time for her to attend college, Mary Jane Patterson chose not to enroll in the college’s two-year program for women and enrolled in the “gentlemen’s course,” which was a four-year program. She graduated with her B.A. degree with high honors in 1862.

At the age of 22, Mary Jane Patterson moved to Philadelphia, PA. There, she was a teacher at the Institute for Colored Youth for five years. In 1869, she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught at the new Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first public high school in Washington D.C.

In 1871, Mary Jane Patterson became the principal of the school until she resigned in 1884. Under her leadership, the school developed a prestigious reputation.

Mary Jane Patterson was also active in women’s rights and assisted in founding the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

Today, we remember Mary Jane Patterson for paving the way for black women (and people) in higher education, even in a time when slavery still existed and women were extremely marginalized. We thank her for being an early demonstration of black girl magic.

#EverydayBlackHistory

 

NOT My Birthday Suit: An Open Letter to Sally Hansen® on Racist Nail Color Name

Dear Sally Hansen®:

FullSizeRender (5)I was in a wedding and in need of a neutral nail polish. I came across your Miracle Gel color, Birthday Suit. I was initially drawn to it because it was just what I was looking for, but when I read the name of the color, I was taken aback. I thought it was interesting that someone would choose this name, even though everyone’s “birthday suit” is not that color. Birthday Suit is not the color of my “birthday suit.”

I am a program coordinator for multicultural education at a university. As we teach our students about diversity and inclusion, and strive to develop their multicultural competence, we often talk about microaggressions. Naming this polish Birthday Suit is a microaggression.

Psychologist and Columbia professor, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., defines microaggressions as “everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, or those who are marginalized experience in their day to day interactions with people.” Microaggressions are often perpetrated by members of dominant groups and done so unconsciously, without negative intention or ill will. Microaggressions can (amongst multiple effects) make the dominate group seem “normal” while making anyone outside of that seem abnormal or as the “other.” Well, that is how I felt when I read the name Birthday Suit. I thought to myself, surely, they know this is NOT the color of all of their consumer’s birthday suits. It was frustrating and disappointing, but not shocking, because unfortunately, I have been dealing with this type of subtle racism my entire life.

The cosmetic and fashion industries are infamous for using “nude” to describe colors similar to Birthday Suit; so much so that some people think of “nude” as a color, without actually realizing that it is the nude color of a dominant group, white people. For decades, despite its discriminatory nature, brands and companies continue to use “nude” to describe their products (shout out to Nubian Skin for countering this and providing women of color with “a different kind of nude”). It is even more disturbing to know that until just two months ago (thanks to the Nude Awakening Campaign), Merriam-Webster defined the word nude as, “having the color of a white person’s skin.” So you see, there is already an issue here.  That is why it is so disappointing and frustrating to see a color named Birthday Suit in 2015. Instead of fixing this issue that has long existed, Birthday Suit reinforces the problem AND diminishes another commonly used term (as done with nude), that everyone could once relate to, to now only describe the color of white people’s skin.

I understand that your company may not have intended to make me feel excluded or offended. That is often the case with microaggressions. However, I do not want this to be an instance where you explain how this was not your intention and we move on. Why? Because this is not just about nail polish; it is about addressing a type of bias that happens every single day that many are unaware of or ignore. It is important that we as a society start acknowledging the reality of microaggressions and their effects, and do something about it. This is a chance to do something; our chance to do something.

While we do not experience as much broad, overt racism as we once did, there is still subtle racism (often in the form of microaggressions) that can do just as much (if not more) harm. In today’s day and age, most people consider themselves to be “good people” who are well intended, fair, and do not discriminate. However, this situation is a prime example of how good people can be unaware of their bias, act in a discriminatory manner, and hurt people of color. People think we ended racism when we stopped overt racism (slavery, Jim Crow laws, etc.) but that was only a part of the battle. We will not see race relations improve again until we become aware of and acknowledge the subtle biases possessed within our hearts and minds; the subtle biases that still cause discrimination.

I ask that you use this as a teachable moment and educate your organization on microaggressions through diversity trainings. I also ask that you change the name of the Birthday Suit color. And finally, I ask that your organization launch a campaign going against the idea of “nude” or “birthday suit” being one skin tone and leading the way for change in the cosmetic and fashion industries. I am more than willing to continue this conversation and be a part of these solutions. Please let me know how I can help. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time.FullSizeRender (5)

Sincerely,

Aleidra R. Allen, M.A.

 

#GoHomeDeray: The Coexistence of Unity and Protest

On Sunday June 21, 2015, #GoHomeDeray top-trended Twitter nationally for at least 14 hours. The hashtag included tweets directed at Deray McKesson, an activist who became well known after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. You may recognize him from one of his more popular CNN interviews that took place in Baltimore, MD after the death of Freddie Gray. Since last August, Deray has been present in various cities to seek justice in incidents where racism is speculated.  The tweets were largely from Deray derayadversaries who bluntly shared their opposition to his presence in Charleston, SC.

Those participating in the trending topic appear to believe that Deray and/or his views promoted the “riots,” looting, and other unrest that has occurred in response to various incidents across the country. They feel that Charleston is coping with its grief with unity and forgiveness, and that Deray’s presence is not needed or wanted.

This blog is not necessarily to defend Deray, but more so to discuss the repetition of history, disconnect, and irony demonstrated by #GoHomeDeray. It will also discuss how unity and protest can coexist.

image 1Unfortunately, it is not new for black people confronting racism to be told to “go home” by white people who prefer they just leave it alone. Black people were often image 2told to “go home” when they called out racism and injustice, and advocated for their rights during the Civil Rights Movement. Even Dr. Martin  Luther King, Jr. was told to “go home” in the Mason City Globe-Gazette in September 1965. While this is not the first time for this “go home” rhetoric, this may be the first time we’ve seen it done via social media. #GoHomeDeray makes us wonder how far we’ve actually come.

image 4Additionally, #GoHomeDeray demonstrates that there are still people who do not understand black’s people’s plight and the issues being raised. The “riots” and looting that people do not want to see were not caused by Deray. They were caused by feelings of helplessness and pain; feelings that our society perpetuates (and has long perpetuated) through seemingly small and systematic forms of racism. Of course, I am not condoning this behavior. I am not saying that it is the right response. But in theimage 5 words of Deray McKesson, “you don’t have to condone it to understand it.” If we want to see the “riots” and looting stop, let’s address the root of the issue so that people will not feel so helpless, like they have nothing to lose. Instead of telling people to “go home” let’s work to address the actual cause and alleviate the racial bias that yields this unwanted reaction.

Many of the trending tweets expressed that there is unity and forgiveness in Charleston so they do not need Deray to be there. The unity and forgiveness is indeed positive and necessary. However, it does not negate the need to address the racism that caused this massacre in Charleston. It is amazing and beautiful to see the families of the 9 victims choose forgiveness despite this life changing tragedy. But if we allow that forgiveness to prevent us from addressing the racist root of this crime, we will have let those 9 lives be taken in vain and we are bound to see something like this happen again. For too long, this country has been trying to overcome racism in this polite, politically correct, “kumbaya” way. Well, there is nothing polite, politically correct, or “kumbaya” about racism so until we address this thing directly, and stop being afraid to talk about it, we will be as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane. Policies still need to change. Systems still need to change. Hearts and minds still need to change. So activism is still necessary.

Lastly, #GoHomeDeray is ironic. There is a contradiction in emphasizing unity and forgiveness while also excluding people from being a part of it. Shouldn’t we want to invite people into that unity? What benefit is it to make such a positive experience “invitation only?” It seems like we would want even those who have responded in less favorable ways to be there, so that we could model a more ideal way. Making unity only for a certain group or type of people is actually the opposite of unity– it’s divisive. #GoHomeDeray took away from what seemed to be a first step in coming together and caused people to question the authenticity of the “unity” in Charleston, reiterating the lack of unity in this country.

Both unity and protest (defined as “something said or done that shows disagreement with or disapproval of something,” Merriam-Webster) can happen. We can unite to support the families and Charleston as they grieve an event in our nation’s history that will never be forgotten. And we can protest the racism, culture, and systems that affirm mentalities like that of Dylan Roof. They can coexist, and their coexistence can be beneficial. Just maybe, unity will cause understanding of the experience of Black people in the United States, which causes understanding of the need for change and protest, which motivates people to join the protest, which then brings us back to unity.

IMG_31709 people have been killed. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that they do not die in vain; that change and progress comes from their sacrifice and that of their families. #GoHomeDeray isn’t doing that.

Interview with: Aleidra Allen, Joshua Jones

ajACPA’s Confronting the Reality of Racism in the Academy

Interview with: Aleidra Allen, Joshua Jones (click link)

Aleidra and Josh were interviewed for ACPA’s Confronting the Reality of Racism in the Academy. They shared their experiences with #OccupySLU, a 6-day protest that occurred on the campus of Saint Louis University (SLU) after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. They also discussed the impact of being in St. Louis and SLU at such a time, the current issues of race in America, and the what colleges and university can do.

#BlackLivesMatters for Dummies

I am terribly frustrated to still see people “correcting” #BlackLivesMatter posts by commenting with “all lives matter.”

The problemIMG_3174 with “all lives matter” is that it is neutral. And Desmond Tutu said it best, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

I like analogies so here’s another one: “All lives matter” is like me bleeding and needing a band aid. So I tell everyone my problem and start the #AleidraNeedsABandAid movement. Well, my friends see my post, and instead of becoming allies of my movement, they start the #EveryoneNeedsABandAid movement, because we should keep things equal and get everyone a band aid, right?

Wrong. #EveryoneNeedsABandAid actually distracts from my problem and makes my movement about everyone, even though everyone is not bleeding and in need of help like me. No, you are not included in my movement but why do you need to be if you are not bleeding? Why does my issue have to be made to include you when I’m the one that is bleeding, not you?

My advocacy for myself is no disrespect to you– I just need help and am trying to fix my problem. Would it make sense for you to be more concerned with advocating for everyone to have band aids (even though everyone is not bleeding) instead of helping me stop my bleeding? Is it appropriate for you to be more concerned with being included in my movement (even though you don’t have my problem) than helping me overcome my problem?  Why focus on getting everyone a band aid when we could use that energy to get band aids for the people who actually need them?

Joining my movement would not mean you are any less important or deserve any less assistance if you ever start bleeding. It would just mean that you are willing to step outside of your privilege of not needing a band aid right now, to help me so I won’t need one, or this movement, anymore.

And there should be no fear in that. Because if and when you ever start bleeding, I’ll be there to help you get a band aid, just like you did for me. But what you should fear is me never getting a band aid because you preferred to advocate for everyone, and never directly said #AleidraNeedsABandAid.

#BlackLivesMatter .

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