Where I was when we began: I was excited and hopeful at the beginning of this semester. I thought that a 360 would be a great way to talk about Blackness and Whiteness because we’d get so many different opportunities to talk to one another and also be exposed to lots of new information. Though we encountered struggle early on in the semester I was still excited to keep learning with everyone, and struggle is to be expected when we’re talking about race in a racist institution.
Where I am now: I’m exhausted, angry, sad, frustrated, still learning… Feeling very motivated to do personal and professional anti-racism work. Reflection is really important to me right now, but also I need some time and distance away from campus.
What happened in between: I had a difficult time being myself inside and outside of class this semester. I retreated a lot midway through the semester and felt distanced from the coursework and my peers and in retrospect that did far more harm than it did good for me and for others. I’ve been looking back and seeing ways that I contributed to the negativity of our shared space, but also recognizing the ways that I worked diligently to keep learning and growing in spite of/because of everything that’s happened. At the end of the day I really worked hard to complete all that I could in terms of assignments and readings and I hope that's reflected in my postings and presentation.
How-and-what have you been learning: I’ve learned a lot about the history of exhibiting Africa and Blackness and how what is displayed in museums informs our public opinion of people and cultures. I learned how difficult it is to plan an exhibition! Also that reading and writing about race is a muscle that I haven’t been encouraged to use my entire life and I’m mad about that. I realized just how impactful my Whiteness can be in a room in ways that I was definitely not aware of before. For example, that I can be heard over others because I am White; that silence can be just as powerful as speech, especially in times of conflict.
Where my learning edges are: I’ve recognized the clumsy intersection of analysis, emotion, and race in my life. I didn’t realize how much I’ve learned to speak detachedly about racism, and how it is because of my Whiteness that I’ve been able to do so ‘effectively’ in the past. An edge I have is marrying emotion with critical thinking – I have a hard time articulating what I’m thinking or what is happening in a conversation when I’m upset or excited, etc. Maybe marrying isn’t the right word, but allowing them to exist together. Another edge is that I want/need to explore more about the history of race and education.
Exhibition work: My exhibition group motivated me a lot this semester. I was very invested in the nkisi nkondi, both before and after our great revelation mid-semester. I learned so much from the books that Olivia shared with us, both about minkisi but also about the slave trade in the Bakongo Kingdom. I think that our exhibition work was the work that I was most attentive to in the end of the semester, because it was concrete and relevant both historically and in present day. Also because the work of exhibiting African art at Bryn Mawr needed to be done thoughtfully and completely, and I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to send a message to the College and invite people into dialogue about BMC’s history with collecting African art. I also learned more about collaborating with others to create a cohesive final product for a public audience.