On Friday evening, the Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice and Leadership hosted an event entitled “Stand Where We Stand,” featuring guest speaker Michelle M. Wright, a professor of African American Studies and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University.
The event acted in part as a follow-up discussion to Wright’s lecture from the day before, entitled “The Physics of Blackness.” It began when eight K students entered the room dancing to The Five Stairsteps’ well-known song “O-o-h Child.” After dispersing themselves among the crowd, each of the eight students proceeded to share a quote about blackness and a piece of their own experiences identifying as black, expressing that there are various forms of blackness, all of which are valid.
The discussion, led by K College English professors Dr. Shanna Salinas and Dr. Bruce Mills, asked participants to engage with the question: when and where is blackness?
Wright shared, “So often we’re taught to think about race as physical attributes …we’re trained to think about race as something that you look like but if you think about it, there’s a whole other set of actions that comes with that.”
“Stand Where We Stand” encouraged participants to continue discussing blackness. The dialogue included many conversations, including what it means to be black in America today, what it means for non-black people to consume blackness, and if non-black people should have a role in black liberation and, if so, what that should look like.
“You’re all at the age right now where you can start to form your own notions,” Wright said, addressing K students. “I would encourage you to confront bigotry.”