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Transcript from IMKC "Black Girls Speak: Creating Community in the time of COVID"

Updated: Mar 2, 2021



Kimberlé Crenshaw: Today, I have a very special guest host on Intersectionality Matters, my friend, my shero, my muse, Dina Wright-Joseph. Now Dina, in addition to being an extraordinary talented dancer, and educator. Founding member of Purelements: An Evolution in Dance, and faculty at Ailey Fordham and Professional Performing Arts High School. She's also an artist in residence at AAPF and she's been an integral part of our arts and activism work. Most recently, and the topic of our conversation today, she directed AAPF's Young Scholars Program this summer.


It took place virtually over the course of six weeks this summer, and it was designed to confront what we have called the knowledge desert that exists relating to Black women and COVID.


We want it to center Black women as authorities of their own lived experience in this moment. And in the final days of the program, the young scholars sat down with Dina and with the Intersectionality Matters team to discuss the profound impact that these dual pandemics are having on their lives, in their communities, and in their goals for the future.

Joining us virtually from all around the country these extraordinary young women spoke candidly about mental health, about policing, about their thoughts on returning to campus this fall, and their experiences working together this summer. We're thrilled to bring part of that conversation to you today on Intersectionality Matters. And if you'd like to listen to the full conversation, you can find it at aapf.org.

So Dina, before we dive in, I thought it might be fun to reflect on our working together over the last five years and how we sort of transitioned into this particular moment. What drew you into AAPF?


Dina Wright-Joseph: Well, my introductions at AAPF was very swift.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: As many of these inductions have been over our history.


Dina Wright-Joseph: I committed to the summer camp before I really had a chance to be introduced to the mission of AAPF.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Now that summer camp, Breaking the Silence was an arts, activism, and healing summer camp for Black women and girls. And we ran it from 2015 to 2017.


Dina Wright-Joseph: Yes, but as soon as I joined the team at Vassar, initially the offer was to make sure participants were moving and energizing the participants throughout the day. When I met the women, all of the brilliant participants, they were from age 14 to 75, I was saying, well, number one, that's going to craft the way I'm going to create movement because our bodies move differently depending on where we are in our age range. But then also the activism piece was so important.

And I remember just sitting up the night before and being like, all right, now, what am I going to do? Because this is definitely not simply about the craft of dance. I had to make sure that I chose music and movement and a theme that brought the entire community together. So it completely changed the way that I worked from that moment on. And I actually took that structure and that frame and I've continued it with my younger students as well.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: And what is so brilliant about what you did was you chose themes, each of the three years that we did Breaking the Silence Summer Camp, that amplified the work that we were doing, that amplified where Black women were located in that particular moment in political history. And that, as you said, allowed all of us across our age ranges to participate. We started every morning with movement, followed with meditation and then breakfast. And you know what, it was a challenge too, because some folks are like, "Wait, I can't do anything without breakfast. I can't do anything before 10 o'clock in the morning." We're like, "You know it's summer camp, right?”

And then after summer camp, we continued to work together and did a few productions, including Harriet. So, that's another sort of adaptation, I guess, starting from the summer camp and moving to something more discreet, but also something that was explicitly telling and recovering stories about Harriet Tubman using dance and movement and drumming and spoken word to create an immersive experience, both for the participants and for the audience. Our first performance of that was in Washington, DC.


Dina Wright-Joseph: That was Washington DC, yeah. We were at the Smithsonian for the performance.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: We keep inventing and moving. So this summer presented another opportunity to invent something new. And of course when it comes to all things artivistically oriented, I have my go to people. And so we started thinking about what could be a way of providing a community in the face of these pandemics? How do we step into this space, given the fact that we are virtual?

So that of course became the moment that I called you up and said, "Dina, we want to do something. And we want it to be in the spirit of Breaking the Silence. We want it to be specifically empowering by addressing what is happening right now." So that was a big sort of, here, do something. So walk us through your approach to taking up this mantle and actually developing it into what is, clearly from what all the young women have been telling us, a beautiful experience.


Dina Wright-Joseph: Thank you for that. I can say walking into it was terrifying for me because I consider myself one of your get it girls, like Julia and some of your other team where you just give us the idea, we get it in terms of concept. We don't understand what we necessarily need to do. We get the resources and we get to work. That’s how I really approached this program.


And because our scholars, most of them didn't identify as artists, I had to make sure that I crafted it in a way and designed the program so that they felt comfortable being creative. And they didn't feel as if, oh, well, this is not for me because I really came here specifically to become a researcher under the African American Policy Forum. But, my initial conversation with the scholars was that, it's important to be a creative and it's important to find different ways to share information, especially with our community, because we respond well to storytelling.

We respond to information that comes in ways that we can feel, as opposed to just like analytical statistics, because that's how we experience. We experience this data day to day, but to be able to organize it and share it in a way that multiple audiences can understand, it was really very, very important. And for that, I just felt like we had to really tap into our creativity.[1]


Kimberlé Crenshaw: What can you share with folks about what resonated with the young women, from the conversations that you had and why was it important to come together during COVID?


Dina Wright-Joseph: For one, as you know, you pick the top minds in terms of the young scholars who applied for the program. I mean, they are just like off the charts brilliant. So they all felt really confident in their academic achievement and their ability. But what I realized pretty quickly was that they had never really had community because a lot of our scholars, they come from urban environments a lot of times because they were academically advanced, they didn't find community in their schools. So then, when they were moved into gifted and talented programs or into different types of magnet schools, then they found that they were in predominantly white institutions and then they didn't feel community there. So most of them actually came into the program not even realizing that that's something they really needed.

So pretty quickly, I was able to see, like within the first week, that that was really the gem, that they really needed each other. And they needed a safe space where conversation started to shift from the way they usually presented themselves as intellectuals. So, I tried to create a schedule, that this was just as important, that they had each other.

Also, they were all in some interesting positions because they were all in undergrad, but they were living on campus. So for some, they had in their minds, they had graduated beyond living at home with their parents and started to create this life of independence. And then very quickly, very abruptly, they had to go back home. And their parents picked up from where they were before they moved out. So they felt that they had outgrown their living environment and they didn't really have a way to articulate the need to transition their relationships with their parents.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: And probably something happening across young people everywhere, right? And I think, if I'm not mistaken, we have a clip that actually speaks precisely to that.

This is Eryn and Mia speaking.

Mia: I've had a lot of friends personally who were not able to have or were not able to seek mental health resources either due to economics or maybe their parents didn't believe in it or maybe it was just not something that was discussed in the house. So until they got to college, they didn't have the resources, they didn't have the opportunity and then they got there and they started to pursue them. They started engaging in therapy and they started engaging in meditation and mindfulness. So it's interesting to think of the ways in which COVID has set some people back. Me personally, I feel like I was an adult when I was at college. And I felt so independent, that I had control of everything and coming back home was kind of hard because I no longer get to decide how the dishes are put in the dishwasher. I no longer get to decide what color is the walls are, or how I move throughout the house when I'm going in and out. I felt a lack of independence, and I feel like I'm taking a step back during this time.


Eryn:

So it's really important to think about the impact of the home on mental health and the fact that it has historical roots for Black people. During my time with you guys, I found through my research that the mental health stigma that the Black community has can be traced back to slavery. It was thought that enslaved people weren't sophisticated enough to develop mental illnesses and Black people were basically taught to ignore their mental health issues and refer to them as other names which were basically euphemisms, like just being stressed or just being tired.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Dina, what was a typical day in the program like?


Dina Wright-Joseph: We always started our first hour with what we called our check in. And that was really just anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour where each of the scholars, and they would even ask me, where were they, how were they feeling What were they needing? What bothered them or what made them happy. And then we started to actually show all of the snacks that we prepared. It was like, okay, I have my tea and I have my watermelon. So that became a part of the day where we started creating rituals to come together.

Then on our Mondays and Thursdays, we had sessions with Dr. Venus Evans-Winters. And she was our advisor who actually taught the scholars the actual nuts and bolts of becoming researchers.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: From the rituals, which sounds very much like the rituals that we wanted to establish when we were together physically, but then to the information sharing. So who were some of the people who came in and what were some of the things that the scholars were able to learn from the wonderful list of people that you had lined up?


Dina Wright-Joseph: We had Dr. Casey Britain. We had Dr. Myeisha Taylor, Dr. Arabia Mollette, Dr. Cindy Duke, Chaka Laguerre, who is the first Caribbean woman to become a clerk in the International Court, as well as Camille A. Brown, who is the Tony-winning, Emmy winning choreographer and a great friend of mine as well.

And then the scholars had a chance to listen to them, to talk with them. The speakers wanted to make sure that they spoke specifically to COVID, to the effects of Black women and girls and to education. So our Black physicians didn't only speak about their work on the front lines, but also what were their challenges of becoming Black girls who wanted to become a physician. So they were able to speak from so many different angles and they were able to just be very, very candid, which was really a real treat.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Yeah. So Dina, a lot of them actually had parents working in the healthcare industry, those who were on the front lines in hospitals and nursing homes when COVID first hit. So Haley, Starr, and Junia each spoke to this. So let's listen to what they have to say.


Haley:

She has to come home and she has to stay away from her family. And she goes straight to the shower and she strips naked and gets... puts the clothes that she wore in a separate pile, and she has to...Even after the shower, even after she's perfectly clean, every time we're about to give her a kiss or a hug, she's like, "Stay out of my face." It's something that you're constantly reminded, where if your family doesn't have a frontline worker, it's not something that you're necessarily constantly reminded about. Not only is it the thought of, oh, you can't even hug your own mother now, it's something that is already a big enough weight on the family dynamic. But then you're also constantly reminded that your mom could be sick with COVID, which is deadly, and she could die. Constantly. Constantly, you're reminded. Anytime you want to give your mom a kiss goodnight, you're constantly reminded of this toll that it's taking on the family dynamic, and it's necessary. We need frontline workers, we need essential workers, and it's amazing what they do. These are the leaders, these are the world-changers, these are the people that we need in society that have such a big heart.

And so I look at my mom and I'm very proud of her. I obviously am nervous for her, but I don't think I've ever really thought, "Man, I wish she wasn't in the ER doctor," because her being an ER doctor is one of the many factors that make her her, and it's not something that I would want to change.


Starr:

My mom also works in a healthcare facility on a case management team, and she was exposed to COVID during her first week back in the office. As a Black woman working during this pandemic, I think that the state health system made it pretty clear that productivity was their priority. So they're not necessarily concerned about the safety and health of their workers who are typically Black women. I think that many Black female healthcare workers are being treated as if they're disposable and no one necessarily cares about their wellbeing or their family's wellbeing.


Junia:

I definitely agree with that, Starr, especially the idea of being disposable. I think sometimes too... Within the States, they're just not allocating resources to a lot of these healthcare facilities. They're just not getting support and support also meaning support for patients who do have it, as well as workers, but also just having emotional support and actually being able to help people mentally during this time because it is challenging when you're seeing patients or people that you've worked with going through it. So for my mom, for example, she's a nursing assistant and so she works at two different nursing homes.


And so she ended up working in a COVID wing. She really cares about her patients and a lot of her patients did end up getting sick. She was at one of the first places that contracted the most cases. She ended up testing positive within a week, but what was hard the most was her experience of course testing positive, but also before that, having her go to work every day and come back with another story of like here's what happened at work and I couldn't help this person the way I wanted to. I saw how much of a big impact it made on my mom and just the fact that there's no real support system. I mean there is at home, but she’s not really getting that outside.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Wow. So, insightful and so powerful at the same time. In our Under the Blacklight Series, we talked early on, about the contradiction that so many Black women found themselves in, that they were seen as, and framed as essential workers, which meant that they were expected to be at work, doing their jobs, but at the same time, that essential designation didn't mean that they were valued. In other words, they were also dealing with being disposable, so the tension between being essential and disposable, is something that we saw in the data, but listening to the Young Scholars, we are seeing them see that. We are seeing them confront that. What do you think it meant for them to be able to talk about this, share their reactions and their observations collectively?


Dina Wright-Joseph: I think it meant so much to them because, similar to what I said before, they really needed community. And they would often say that, even if they had a very difficult evening or difficult morning, they would always say, they look forward to coming together with their sisters. So for four and a half hours to five hours a day, they knew that I would be there, they knew that they would have an opportunity to speak about how they felt that day, that they would get responses from their sisters, and we would work collectively as a group.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: So Dina, in holding space for them, you yourself revealed something quite personal. You want to talk about that?


Dina Wright-Joseph: I witnessed COVID firsthand in some pretty brutal ways. My daughter is a young actor, and we were in California for about six months working on a television series. And as COVID was moving from the East over to the West in Europe, and then it was making its way to the United States, we were all kind of bracing ourselves. And eventually production and everything shut down, schools were closed, and we were flown quickly from California back to New York where we live. My goal was to just buckle down at home and my husband and I would do grocery shopping and we would just all eat together. And we live in a mother-daughter home, which is a two family home, with one entrance. My mom and brother lived upstairs, my family, my husband and children lived downstairs.


And when I got home, I saw my mom and my brother, we arrived on Monday. They look like themselves, everything was great. But by Tuesday, it was apparent that COVID had already taken place and had taken shape with them. And it was like, their health was just downhill from there. So by Saturday, I had to take my brother to the emergency room. I had to call the EMS actually, because I thought he'd had a stroke, because COVID affected him neurologically. And then by Sunday, the following day, I had to take my mom to the emergency room because she'd spiked a fever, and by this time, we were just learning about the acute symptoms of COVID and they were both showing them.


So, we had to take my mom to the emergency room and having them in separate hospitals meant I had to make calls constantly twice a day. And now family knows and they can't get to us. So it was my job to report to family every day. And of course, my anxiety built up in a way that I'd never experienced before, but unfortunately my mom did not make it. She was in the hospital for 10 days, but my brother did survive. He's well now. But he was in the hospital for four weeks and then he wasn't strong enough to come home, so then we had to move into a rehab facility, a nursing and rehab facility, for an additional three weeks.


Now, also, while this was happening, my husband and I also started showing COVID symptoms. So, trying our best not to panic our children, we just really tried to very calmly, take care of ourselves, take care of each other, isolate when fevers came up and luckily we were super health conscious, and we were doing the vitamin C everything that we learned about vitamin C, the vitamin D, oregano oil, we were doing that. We were only cooking food at home just to make sure absolutely no dairy. So we were just really leaning on keeping our diet very simple.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: All while you are grieving the loss of your mom, you are supporting your brother, you are being the source of information for the rest of the family, and you are also battling the disease yourselves.


Dina Wright-Joseph: Exactly. Exactly. So it was quite a time, from March to April.

Kimberlé Crenshaw: Yeah. It was March, right? So you all went through this tragedy in the earliest weeks of it, when folks didn't know what to expect. There wasn't a strong sense of what was happening, not even really enough information fully about how to protect themselves. So in many ways, your family, is at the sort of, the definition of what could have been prevented, had more information been available earlier. If this had been taken more seriously, if people had realized that this is real and it's going to happen. It's not a flu, it's not a little bug, it is absolutely devastating if we don't really have the tools necessary to protect ourselves.

With your own experience then, holding this space for young women. First of all, I just want to thank you for being willing to hold space for them, given what you were dealing with yourself. So what is it that you think you modeled for these young women, in being able to tell this story and still be able to hold space and lift up the need to share information?


Dina Wright-Joseph: First of all, I actually didn't share my story with the scholars, because I didn't want to shift the way they saw me or experienced me. I didn't actually tell them the story until we pretty much finished the program. But saving space for the scholars was about as healing for me as it was for them as well. Because as you said, losing my mom when we were really at the height of the COVID pandemic, and how it was affecting New York City in particular, was terrifying because we didn't have information.

Being able to work with the scholars, where this is literally about gathering information, is really about being able to create data and present it from the voices of Black women, where they're not just the subjects of research, but they're actually the researchers who were creating, the data was really very healing.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Yeah. So one part of the Young Scholars Program was doing oral history projects. Talking to our elders and you facilitated that as well. What was that like?

Dina Wright-Joseph: That was a beautiful experience. Dr. Venus prepared them so well to interview these elders. Every one of them had a different approach, but just their ability to tell their stories was just magnificent. I really learned so much from each and everyone one of them, just brilliant, confident, strong, they all had their own ideology around their blackness. I mean everyone of them was so clear.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: And what do you think the value of the intergenerational dialog actually was, for these young women?


Dina Wright-Joseph: It was powerful. It was so necessary because like we say, a lot of our young people, they really only get a chance to really speak with their parents. And their parents are still operating in a mode of, I'm teaching you the steps that you need to be successful in life, they haven't gotten a chance to really just relax and tell their stories. This project actually got me to, I started to interview my aunt, my mom's sister. And the stories I got about my family, I was blown, mind was blown.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: The things you didn't know.


Dina Wright-Joseph: There were things. There were things that I didn't know. And we ended up just laughing and she actually told me things that she'd never told anyone. So at some point she sees me as an adult and she's able to tell me some of her own personal stories.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Well, and you mentioned then the way that this drives a couple aspects of the project. One was when I thought about just this whole generation of our parents who are particularly at risk, I thought, how can we hold them up, so that the life force that they have been, and the experiences that they bring to the fore as Black people, many who were born and raised before the modern Civil Rights Movement. If we're not able to hold their light, then our ability to understand the world we live in is diminished by that.


Some of the information that we currently have about what it was like to actually be a slave, that happened, during the period of time when the federal government was actually paying researchers to collect this information. And had they not done it, much of our understanding of our own history would have been lost.


So they were able to actually interview older African-Americans who had been born into slavery, who had firsthand information. But one had to take seriously the need to record, to curate, to hold, of these stories of survival, from so many of our African-American elders. So this seemed to me to be another moment where we really needed to take stock. We need to realize that the generation that survived and struggled, during segregation, is a generation that we are beginning to lose, even more so now that we see the consequences of COVID.


So we both wanted to gather those stories. And we wanted to signal the importance of their lives.

So the Young Scholars also discussed some of the other research projects that they participated in throughout the summer. So let's hear a little bit from Mia, Gabby, Kayla and Carly. Speaking about research.


Mia:

And so my group, we were called the Supernova group and we did isolation, social isolation, leading to criminality in Black girls, and just understanding more how it feels to be socially isolated and why maybe acting out is one of a path that some kids choose. And it was really interesting to have these conversations with girls that I could see myself as? I was looking at this girl and I was like, I was you three years ago. Not that long ago, I very much can still remember being you. And so it was very interesting to... And it was really nice actually to be able to give her advice and to try and give her the things that I wish I had known that I wish maybe someone had come down and be like, Hey baby girl, by the way, so it was a really nice experience. And I think it was for her too. And it was nice to feel like I was doing something of importance. In logging her story, I was adding something important and needed to the database.


Gabby:

It felt like a normal conversation. Like I'm just talking with this girl, like Mia said, who I could have been and I was in the past. But then also to realize that this is actual important research, this is stuff that people need to know and people need to hear, but it’s also stuff that she needed to hear. And to support and reinforce her, because I know the person I interviewed wanted to go into the healthcare field, and it’s so important to have Black women in healthcare. So to reinforce her and to tell her, "Your dreams are important because your work is so important, you're going to save so many lives," I just think that that's something that I wish I heard.


Kayla:

I wasn't in the Supernova group, but I was in Young Goddess Collective, shout out. But it was definitely- Dr. Venus, she mentioned just in the beginning of this entire process, who is the research and who is researched. And with us being the group that is constantly researched through the white gaze, finally being able to conduct that with our own agency and knowing how to create that comfortable environment where we're not just onlookers, we share these experiences, that was something that I've never... One, I've never really gotten to conduct interviews like that. And for that to be my first experience with something that was really powerful for me.


Carly:

I don't know if anyone's ever had government officials come into your school and they watch your teachers and they watch you and they're in the back of the room. I don't know, you feel like you're in a Petri dish and you are constantly on edge like, "What's going on?" That's what I normally associate with research interviews, protocols. It just feels very like, "I'm going to sit in the back and watch you and take down the notes. But this was a really nice experience where it could feel not transactional, but we're both getting something out of it. And it wasn't just we're both getting knowledge, but we're both getting the opportunity to feel heard and seen. They get to tell me their story, and I am constantly hearing myself in your story. So in the back of my mind, I'm like, "Yeah, me too." I don't know. It could feel like community for the small moments that we were together in those interviews.



Kimberlé Crenshaw: So Dina, who were these interviewees that the young women were talking about?


Dina Wright-Joseph: Each research team had different criteria in terms of who they were going to interview. The age range was probably from 12 to 75.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: I noticed they had little names for the groups. What were these names and how'd they come up with them?


Dina Wright-Joseph: We had 12 scholars, we broke them up into four groups of three, and they came up with their names and they even designed these little logos for each of their research teams. Young Goddess Collective, Supernova, AAPF's Most Wanted.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: I love it, I love it. So what did they talk about in terms of, on campus issues? I understand that there was a conversation about Campus Policing?


Dina Wright-Joseph: Yes. The scholars were saying that, even pre COVID, pre-racial uprisings, they were observing that campus police was a little more aggressive, a little more present on their campuses, especially when it came to dorms that were populated with the small number of Black students that they had. They were saying that very often, they felt that administration didn't listen to them, they kind of always felt like they had to advocate for themselves as the Black students on campuses. And they had to almost create their own coalitions within the predominantly white institutions that many of them attend.

So, what they were concerned about was most of the schools were planning to open fully on campus at the top of this semester, this fall semester. They were concerned about how campus police was going to enforce social distancing. They already knew that they had a lot of classmates who were going to push the barriers, who were going to choose to come together, party. They understood their population. They understood who their peers were. What I recognized in a very short amount of time, is how social distancing can be weaponized. As a Black body standing in a space, if someone else wants you to move, then they can come close to you and then your response should be to move further away. You'll find yourself adjusting more than ever to try to socially distance, but at the same time the question is, are we really socially distancing or are you just really moving me out of the way and pushing me to the periphery?

Kimberlé Crenshaw: Which is not unprecedented, with the way our bodies in space have prompted often white reactions to move us. Well, let's hear what they had to say about campus policing.


Gabby:

On Stanford's campus, the Black community is highly concentrated on West campus. So I fear with the need to regulate and enforce social distancing guidelines, I do think it's a bit scary to see what that would look like for black students on campus.


Aniah:

I definitely understand that fear, Gabby. I know for our school, we also have Black dorms and we also have dorms for students of color and you find that those are the dorms that are policed heavily by our public safety. It took our students coming up with a bill of rights and actually having to sit down with the head of public safety in order to change that dynamic. I mean, that's not a student's job. That's administration job, especially when administration is saying they're in support of Black Lives Matter. You can't just say it. You actually have to own up to it.


Junia: I one hundred percent agree. They need to own up to it, and like, for us in Boston, the Boston Police Department is in conjunction with most campus police, it's like Northeastern and other schools as well, their campus police are ... they're indistinguishable from the actual Boston police. And so I remember we were protesting, it was a group of Black students primarily, and like, anyone who's been to a protest knows usually you're in the middle of the street, but we're on the sidewalk. And so you just see police helicopters, there's police on bikes, which is I don't know why. Just a whole bunch of unnecessary things, and it was just a show of force. It's not a matter of safety. It's just like, let's show you how strong we can be against you, who's just protesting on the sidewalk


Kimberlé Crenshaw: So that was Gabby, Anaya, and Junia. I mean, it really does remind us that the policing problem isn't one that we can perform our way out of. Just being students, just being on campus, just being in black dorms or being Black bodies in any dorms, those are all triggers for a particular kind of response from campus police. I mean, I'm UCLA, I've been policed coming out of my office.

Had the young scholars come to a point where they were able to say, why it's absolutely important that these experiences and that their research actually happened and be part of a wider national conversation about the twin pandemics?


Dina Wright-Joseph: They did. They were inspired not only to become researchers, but they wanted to learn more about legislation, which will most likely be part two of their program. They want to write a legislative letter. They want to make sure that the information doesn't stop with them, and it doesn't only live in the world of Academia. They want to make sure that everyone is going to benefit from taking the time to compile this data and try to create a sense of what is next, what needs to be done. We can prove that this has been a very specific issue and we need very specific results.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: And they spoke at the end about the impact that this summer program has had on them, in particular, the importance of carving out space for black girls, especially in the midst of these dual pandemics. So, let's hear a little bit about the reflections on the Young Scholars Program.


Mia: For me personally, during this time, a lot of truth has arisen, has come to the surface about my friends. Some their beliefs, some of their biases, which haalve been kind of painful personally for me. I grew up in a predominantly white area, so a lot of my friends at home are white. And so it was hard talking to them during all this and being like, yo, I love you guys, but some of your opinions are wack. And so it was really nice to be in this space because I didn't feel like I had to prove my worth ever. When we were talking about things, it was never like, “but the economy.” I'm like, bro, who cares about the economy? I don't want to die. I just, I don't care about ... If it's economy or my life, I'm choosing my life and the fact that you're not choosing my life, kind of hurtful. I think for a lot of non people of color, it kind of feels like an opinion because their lives aren't on the line. But for us, it's not an opinion. So I've really enjoyed this particular internship during this time, because I think it was kind of like a godsend for me personally.


Carly: Yeah. To jump off of that, in terms of growing up in a predominantly white area in predominantly white settings. But I feel like what's different for me is because of that, I'm really used to just finding a group of Black people, and we sit in a room together and we vent when something happens when there's like a racially charged incident. And because of quarantine and COVID, I haven't been able to get in a room with just a lot of Black girls and talk about what's going on.


And so our morning check-ins and are somewhat unproductive tangents have really been that replacement for me and been really helpful for being able to... I don't know, get into the real nuance of situations. Cause I've had meetings with professors who, before we talked about my paper, they're very, clunkily like, I know there's a lot going on in the world. And it's like, I don't really, I want to talk to you about this. I want you to tell me the responses on my paper, and then I will go talk to this with people I'm comfortable with. And this has been a place that I actually really feel comfortable talking about those things.


Kasaya: Even though I go to an HBCU and even though there's a lot of women that go to my HBCU, I still a lot of the perspectives that I hear from the Black male perspective and my closest friends, most of them are black males. And so I never had a chance to build a healthy sisterhood, with just women who, young Black women who understand me. And this group, they check off everything that fulfills me, whether it's the intellectual side, the more emotional and self care side, literally everything. They're funny, they're smart, they're beautiful. And they're just so nice. And it feels like we've built a sisterhood, a family, and Ms. Dina is like the big sister slash mom we all wanted to have. And so I really am grateful.


Kayla: I've never been in a group of Black women like you guys. And it's just, I think a big thing for me is that I thought I was chilling before, but now I really wasn't. I was down, and now y'all brought me up. I grew so much from this group, And I feel so lucky, being around all of you guys like, yes you guys are hilarious, beautiful, so smart, but not in the way where it's like, dang, I'm dumb. Like we're smart together. And we uplift each other. There's ever been a moment where I'm like, do I belong? I don't know, no, we're all here together to grow and to keep going. And this is a sisterhood.


Kimberly: Yeah. I totally agree. Before this internship, I didn't have a lot of female friends. I didn't have female friends at all, because usually girls would always exclude me and make me feel less than I already am. And being part of this group makes me feel like a part of a big family. And I honestly think I'll definitely ride for all y'all. And I know that you guys can definitely ride for me too. And this is a relationship for life and I'm just glad to be part of the sisterhood.


Eryn:

Y'all have me like crybaby central. Oh my God. First of all, shout out to Ms. Dina, I've been meaning to tell you this since like the first day, your smile probably could cure every illness. Whenever you smile, I'm like, thank you, because that's exactly what I needed. But yeah. Thank you all for allowing me to be a part of everything with you. Yeah. Big love.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Mia, Carly, Kasaya, Kayla, Kimberly, and Eryn. It sounds like your family has just now grown.


Dina Wright-Joseph: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: This is definitely proof of that saying, it takes a village, right? If it takes a village to raise a child in the best of circumstances, what does it take in the middle of twin pandemics? There was space to be filled, space to be held, and families of choice seemed to have grown out of it.


Dina Wright-Joseph: They realized that they really do have a lot to offer, that they aren't working in isolation, that as much as they feel like unicorns, that they are part of a society of unicorns and what can happen when they do work together. And they do allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of each other and support each other as sisters, as well as academics.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: So already we're seeing our young scholars thrive and going out and being beacons for other Black women and girls. I'm really excited about this. I look forward to not only seeing what this generation does, but seeing the program grow. I hope Dina Wright-Joseph, that it grows with you we'll be able to have you back. Yes?


Dina Wright-Joseph: Definitely.


Kimberlé Crenshaw: Wonderful, and I also want to take the opportunity to thank the Grantmakers for Girls Of Color who made this program possible. And also Dr. Venus Evans Winters, who brought so much of her knowledge and experience to this program to make it possible. And thanks finally to the wonderful sisters, the wonderful young women of AAPF's, first young scholars program. Thanks Dina for joining us.


Dina Wright-Joseph: Thank you.


Outro:

Intersectionality Matters is produced by Julia Sharpe-Levine. This episode was co-produced and edited by Alexandra Moore and Whitney Thomas. The conversation in today’s episode was crafted and curated by Dina Wright-Joseph and AAPF’s Young Scholars Program. More information on the voices behind today’s episode can be found in the episode notes. You can support us by leaving a review on iTunes, following us on social media, and signing up for our Patreon page. Intersectionality Matters is supported by you, our listeners. If you value conversations like these, consider donating at AAPF.org. I'm your host Kimberlé Crenshaw, and this is Intersectionality Matters.

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