Self Care & Stress: Laugh More

I recently spent the day with a good friend of mine from high school. We saw a movie, ate at a newly opened Whole Foods in a recently gentrified neighborhood (I give my first time in Whole Foods a solid 4.5 out of 10), and spent the rest of the time taking selfies and laughing at things (and maybe some people) we met around the way. It was just one of those days I look back on and think about how refreshing it is to take a break from the mundanities of everyday life and just laugh– how necessary it is to just to be happy about the stupid little things. Like when you’re sitting at the bus stop with your friend and a random man starts blaring “Mask Off” from the speakers of his phone, it’s okay to laugh…and maybe dance along (we may have laughed and shamelessly Milly Rocked to this man’s music). Or when an old couple stares a little too long when you’re trying to catch some divine selfie lighting outside of a Dollar Tree, just laugh it off and hope they walk away (it makes the situation less awkward).

Right now, as I’m typing this blog post, I’m thinking about all of the things I need to do tomorrow, and next week, and the week after that; it really makes me appreciate the day I spent soaking up the sun and laughing at stupid little things with an old friend.

“Sometimes being carefree and Black is an act of revolution.”

Laugh more.

By: Jessica Isibor, Staff Writer

Increasing Black and Brown Student Presence on Emory University's Campus

When it comes to institutions of higher education, black and brown students are vastly underrepresented. This fact is not any less true on Emory University’s campus. We need more black and brown students, not only because we are a campus that claims to be dedicated to diversity, but also because students of color offer so much to the social and academic environment of any campus. My question is: How do we get more students of color on Emory University’s campus? I reached out to the Essence of Emory Program, whose staff has been working to address this issue. The Essence of Emory program is a 3-day experience that encourages students of underrepresented cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds and first-generation students to attend Emory University, by allowing them to stay on campus and to inundate themselves in campus life.

I met with Chelsea Jackson to get more information about the program. Jackson is one of two diversity initiatives fellows in the Office of Admissions. She works with the diversity team in the office, and is one of the 4 staff members who plan Essence. I asked Chelsea: How has your experience with the Essence of Emory program had an impact on your life? Jackson states, “Essence has been amazing for me because I've seen black and brown students come directly [to Emory University] because of the program. I've worked in the office since my sophomore year so I've had students come and say, ‘Essence made me choose Emory’ and that's really fulfilling.” Although fulfilling, Jackson states that recruitment is “A LOT” of work especially because “we're competing for the very best students, so our peer institutions are fighting for them as well.” This shows that there is still work to be done when it comes to innovating new ways to get students of color on campus.

I also to talked Bethany Greene, who is an Essence baby.  Greene echos Jackson’s sentiments in that she states the experience made her feel that “Emory was a nice place to be”, and secured her decision to attend. Greene claims that being on campus really helped her to see herself at Emory University. Greene brings up an important point. Although, there are many factors as to why black and brown students are underrepresented in institutions of higher education, many black and brown students can’t see themselves on a campus like Emory University, and therefore they do not apply. They need to know that there are other bright students of color that they can relate to on campus.  They need to know that they have a place at Emory University. The Essence of Emory program is just one way that the Emory University Office of Admissions has attempted to address these issues, but it can’t be the only way in which it does so. We still need more black and brown students on campus, and as a university that values diversity, we need to innovate even more ways to get students of color on campus.

By: Mariah Doze, Staff Writer


For My Sisters, I Carry The Load

Ngambika is one of the reasons I came to Emory this fall. I did not come particularly to step, but I was looking for a certain kind of community that was full of students striving for Black Excellence who were supportive of other brothers and sisters and full of students proud of their culture. When I visited the Ngambika table at Wonderful Wednesday on Admitted Students’ Day, I had a feeling that it would provide me with access to the community that I wanted at my future college purely because it seemed to be the table where Black students were stopping. 

A very cheery Amber Wilson welcomed me to Wonderful Wednesday with a “Hi, do you want to buy a Bika brownie?” I walked over and started chatting with her about Ngambika. Besides the fact that it was a freshmen step team, I did not really get what the team was all about. I did not know then, but, I would not understand the meaning of Ngambika until I joined. The encounter floated to the back of my mind after that campus visit. Yet, over the summer, my roommate, Liz, was telling me how she was super excited to try Ngambika in the fall. We exchanged so many text messages over the summer about the team, but I was not really considering it. Still, I let her drag me to the first practice.

o be blunt, the first practice was scary. I had no idea what to expect and I did not know a majority of the girls. We did not even do any stepping the first few practices. Instead, the two girls in charge, who were called stepmistresses, drilled into us discipline. We had to rest, which meant falling into a specific position as soon as they yelled “REST” and we had to throw up an odd symbol to me at the time, a Bika, whenever they yelled “Bikas Up.” Girls who were unable to handle the rules and drills dropped out until we were a team of 27 or so. Personally, I was not interested in quitting. So, I found a way to understand the sacredness in the idea of a Black sisterhood reflected in our “Bikas.” Ngambika is an individual thing as well as a sisterhood sometimes, especially those first few weeks. Everyone has a different reason for being there. For me, it was the support system I found in girls who looked like me.

Over the first few weeks of practice, our step-mistresses, Aiyanna and Courtney of Ngambika ’15, taught us to hold and cherish our “Bika,” the symbol of Ngambika.

We were to look through it and “carry the load” for our sisters and that, as a team, we stood for sisterhood, academics, service and step. But, we were being told all of those things by our stepmistresses. It was not until we learned “Take It Back,” the signature step of Ngambika, did we became a part of Ngambika’s legacy at Emory. As a team with girls with minimal stepping experience, learning the step was a long process. For weeks, we were learning it piece by piece. At times, it was a frustrating process. But, it made us grow as a team because it was the first step we mastered. Being able to do rounds after rounds of the step meant that we were finally in sync as a team. The first time we successfully did it, that’s when I truly believed that we were more than just a step team—we were a sisterhood.

Naomi’s powerful opening to Bambika Beats sums up exactly what I felt over the weeks of practice:

“This is Ngambika's Dollhouse. The manufacturer of the smartest and baddest dolls since 1992. Molded by the frames of sisterhood, academics, service, and step and endowed with the beauty that is black. I'm inspired by these dolls every day, so tonight I want to share my inspiration with you. But you don't want to just hear me talk about them all night, right? Nah, you want us to show you. So, watch us carefully because satisfaction is guaranteed as we TAKE IT BACK .”

set off.jpeg

With every frustrating practice, every successful run-through, every community service event, and the late-night practices we became a team that inspired each other to be bigger and better than we imagined. We were friends during and outside of practice. We were Black Girl Magic everywhere we went. The magic has always existed in each of us but Ngambika helped it shine brighter than ever. Of course, I can only speak for myself. But, I am glad that I joined Ngambika, that I “took it back” and then “remixed” it, and that I carried the load for my sisters. Ngambika was a part of my special beginning at Emory and the memories will carry me through my next few years here.

If you missed our performance at Bamika Beats, you can check it out here. And, you can come see us this semester at Step It Up, Essence and other events! LINK

By: Imani Brooks, Staff Writer



To be Black and Muslim

On Friday January 27th millions of Americans, immigrants and citizens alike, were in shock once news broke of President Trump’s most recent executive order: “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”. This directive targeted Muslim communities by implementing a ban on the travel and immigration of people from seven Muslim dominant countries into the U.S.  However, Trump’s executive order is not an isolated instance of islamophobia in America. Islamophobia has taken a particularly strong grasp of our country since the 9/11 attacks. Since then, widespread propaganda has narrowly portrayed the entire Islamic faith as dangerous, projecting them to be a common enemy for Americans. However, this problematic generalization has consequences beyond minimizing and overlooking the millions of peacefully practicing Muslims. It has also perpetuated the erasure of Black Muslims and the unique struggles that they face as well.

The inaccurate portrayal of solely Arabs being subject to this ban and other attacks against Islamic communities ignores the struggle that Black Muslims, both American and of African origin, are facing as well. Nearly one third of all Muslims in America identify as Black but their voices are nearly nonexistent. Of these, there are Black Muslims from countries such as Somalia and Sudan that are directly targeted by the executive order. There are also native born Black Muslims that only identify as American and who continue to be left out of the discourse surrounding islamophobia. A cry for visibility and representation exists in the space where Black and Muslim lives intersect, though this cry continues to be overlooked.

In the words of esteemed activist and author, Dr. Jamilah Kareem, “To be Black and Muslim, too, means being silenced even though we bring the boldest Muslim voices ever”. Even with this bold and unique voice, it is Black Muslims who have been othered, considered unfamiliar, unusual, and unworthy of being heard.  To be Black and Muslim is to be subject to a distinct kind of pressure as a result of being doubly affected by discriminatory structures, yet it is also to be invisible. To be Black and Muslim is to be burdened with the task of constantly having to prove that being black doesn’t invalidate your faith and being Muslim doesn’t invalidate your race. To be Black and Muslim in America is having to be weary of the racism that has burdened your people for hundreds of years and still hyperaware of the ever growing threat that islamophobia presents. The distinct anxiety of being a minority in America is amplified where these identities overlap, and complicated by hesitancy from both communities to accept or even acknowledge each other’s identities. For a long time, intolerances, from colorism to religious persecution, have been used against both groups to justify the control of their people. These shared experiences and struggles alone should be enough to break any hostile attitudes one group may have for the other, and unite them, especially where they intersect.

Considering the direction of politics today, securing solidarity across marginalized groups is more important than ever. We need to take advantage of the beauty and diversity of these combined identities while still recognizing and addressing the weight of the persecution that Black and Muslim groups face independently. In short, we need to embrace intersectionality. Learning from these experiences fortifies the mobilization of unified communities. By creating this solidarity, we’re ensuring that our fight against both islamophobia and racism is inclusive and therefore most effective.

By: Adama Kamara, Staff Writer 

Jack’d or Jacked Up?

I was scrolling on Facebook and I came across this conversation thread:

“I was having a conversation with a friend recently and he posed the question: "If there are so many attractive, accomplished [Black] gay men then why are so many of us single?"...I'd like to hear your feedback. What do you all think? Do you think there's an issue or is it something that is not really a big deal?”

I reflected on some of the conversations I have had with my close friends. I have always wondered why there has been a difficulty finding a potential significant other--someone who’s willing to be consistent, willing to learn who you are as a person, and willing to work towards something substantive. Some would say that maybe it is not your time or that you’re too young to accept that level of commitment in your life. However, I find that this disconnect not only is apparent among my younger friends but also my older friends. Why might someone who has these qualifying attributes to be in a relationship, such as consistency, transparency, integrity, accountability, intelligence, or romance, have such a difficult time in place where there are so many “attractive, accomplished [Black] gay men?”

After much thought and conversation with friends, I attempted to answer some of these questions; four things came to mind, specifically in terms of dating in Atlanta:

[1] I think there's always a power dynamic that deters some men from meeting or initiating conversation. From my experiences, I usually initiate an interaction with a guy because I don't want to miss a possible opportunity to meet a great person, whether that interaction is romantic or platonic. However, in some spaces, I've had guys literally tell me that they wanted me to approach them first, which afterwards, they never fully conveyed a sound reason for why that was the case. Moreover, this power dynamic extends beyond initial encounters. Sometimes Black queer men become fixated with roles and labels, which are often times rooted in heteronormativity. Some men believe there has to be a male and a female role within a relationship, with each role having assumed actions or characteristics.

[2] Also, as cliché as it sounds, we're in the age of online "dating". There are so many interactions that occur online. This is not to say that it's not possible to meet great men online, but mostly online dating has shifted the focus from consistency and patience to fickleness and immediacy, which seems to have interactions or conversations that result in sex. I also think that online dating has become another way to reassure one’s power or pride—guys have the ability to simply swipe left or right, block, or ignore messages without the person directly knowing, which gives men the power to determine when, how, where, and if an interaction is going to occur without any input from the other party.

[3] The fact there are so many “great options” results in men, constantly trying to find what’s better. This mentality gets rooted in ideals around age, beauty, class, and wealth, which are all surface-level attributes and characteristics. Men get distracted and dissuaded when they constantly look for the “perfect” option because they soon realize that nobody is perfect and you have to be willing to not bracket yourself from guys who may actually be a good fit for you. Also, it seems there aren’t many conversations about personality—emotionality, mentality, and spirituality.

 [4] Lastly, I think there is an overwhelming amount of hurt guys in Atlanta—there are many men who have had unhealthy relationships and haven’t taken the time to heal those wounds before attempting to meet another guy. The hurt is also rooted in the arduous process of coming to terms with one’s sexuality, attempting to understand how both they view themselves and how they are viewed by society. Not to say homophobia or misogyny don’t exist, but I believe society is in a progressing time where queerness is beginning to be accepted as an identity; transitioning from an environment where you’re only told to hate yourself to an environment where you are beginning to be accepted as a person and as a part of society, can be a bit troubling to conceptualize and understand.

Now, this is not to say I have all the answers for problems within the queer community. There’s plenty I’m trying to answer and understand. In part, maybe one of the ways in which we can combat some of these issues is by simply being transparent with ourselves and others, being willing to take a risk and be open to what you might find.


Justin Moore 17C, Guest Contributor

Review: A Magic Door and a Lost Kingdom of Peace

(Credit: Donahue Johnson)

(Credit: Donahue Johnson)

I believe that the best fiction has the ability to transport a reader to new worlds and make them believe in it heart and soul. If you’re interested in fiction and fantasy, the newest book by Hugh Hunter 13C, former EIC of Black Star Magazine, should be your next read. A Magic Door and A Lost Kingdom of Peace is a collection of short stories that explores several different realities. Even though the stories are not related to one another in terms of content and the worlds that they occupy, they are all linked by strong imagery, tension in their respective plots, and powerful language. The plot twists thrown in here and there are excellent as well (no spoilers here—you’ll have to find out for yourselves).

Each story stands on its own and is satisfying, which speaks to Hunter’s ability to tell a concise and complete story. I was blown away by how well Hunter created the world of “Purr-lem” in “Big Redd Writing ‘Hood”; the story is a bit more innocent than others in the collection, but it shows just how well Hunter can create entire worlds. If you like puns, you’ll love this story.

The variety of subject matter and the level of fantasy in the collection provides something enjoyable for every reader. Every story in the collection is relatable regardless of the societies and realities within them. I found myself picturing the Hatari forest, the courses in Gridlock, and laughing along with the citizens of The Southern District. It is a truly engaging work, and I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s work.

  Hunter’s book is available for Kindle on Amazon.

Ashley Graham, Lifestyle Editor

The Importance of Blacktivism

Not long ago I attended the Blacktivism Conference on Intersectionality here on Emory's campus. The conference, created from the vision of senior Casidy Campbell (16C), consists of workshops designed to educate attendees on various topics that concern the black community. The part of the conference I looked forward to, and enjoyed, most was being able to choose and attend workshops on important areas of study that interested me. From religion in white spaces to gender within the Black Lives Matter movement, each workshop was vital in deconstructing anti-black thought while promoting the value in every black life. I personally attended the "Depressed While Black" workshop during the first half of the conference where Imade Nibokun presented her own experience with depression and its causation in the turmoil surrounding recent Black Lives Matter protests. There, I learned about the black origins of mental health, while also being taught about alternative protests and self-care techniques developed to combat dehumanizing trauma experienced within the movement. Understanding the importance of mental health is crucial in helping us deal with stressors and triggers that come with microaggressions, police brutality, and simply overextending ourselves.

After the lunch break, I went to my second workshop led by Dr. Maurice Hobson on the subject of Southern Afrofuturism. As a group, we heard about the history of Afrofuturistic practices in black culture while dissecting more modern approaches to Afrofuturism in rap music. Hobson then discussed the franchising of the city of Atlanta in preparation for the 1996 Olympics and the displacement of black natives in the city as a result of this rapid commercialization. Backlash from the black community in Atlanta inspired a popular reemergence of Afrofuturism in the rap music of the Dirty South, with allusions to the Nation of Islam and Nuwaubian theologies of Black Liberation.

Despite not being able to stay long enough to hear keynote speaker Jamilah Lemieux give her speech, I was thoroughly educated through the two workshops I attended that weekend. Not only was I taught something, but I left with something much more valuable. I learned facts about my people and culture in the conference that I had never heard before, and discovering this unknown history within my community asserted my beliefs in black excellence. I was affirmed from merely being present at Blacktivism, among all my other black friends and colleagues that wanted to learn just as much as I did. Through going to the Blacktivism Conference, I experienced a sense of solidarity with other Black students at Emory in working towards wholeness in our community here on campus and outside these collegiate walls which is something that I think I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. 


Steffany Herndon, Staff Writer

Senoritis: What They Don't Tell You

Emory student, 1971

Emory student, 1971

It's senior year and you're excited to be just a few months away from graduating. All of your classes are easier and more interesting now that your major is complete, and you've even found yourself having a little free time within your schedule for once. You have more time with your friends and can actually go out; you even have a few more hours to sleep each night! Before you know it, you'll be free of this place called college and out in the real world on your own...except, do you really want that? Everyone is asking you the same million dollar question: Do you know what your plans after graduation will be? Some of us don't even have an answer and most of us feel like that answer is so far out of our reach.

See, no one tells you that your senior year is the most stressful time of your college life because you only have ten months to truly make sure you're set for life after school, while simultaneously keeping up with classes and extracurriculars that take up all of your time in school. The most trying moment of senior year is the quest for a job. No one wants to be broke and homeless after graduation. Notice how easy it is to be completely drained during this time. I myself can barely find the energy to keep going everyday. Self-care is one of the most helpful things you can do during senior year, especially in your spring semester. Whether that means spending more time relaxing alone instead of going out, cutting some extracurriculars out of your everyday schedule, or even making sure you eat three meals a day, it's imperative that seniors spend time caring for themselves instead of allowing the stress that comes their way to eat them alive. This is probably the last time we’ll be this youthful and free, so why not enjoy the moment while we still can? 


Steffany Herndon, Staff Writer 

Black Space: The Body as an Archive

(Image Source: Chicago Mag PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS STRONG)

(Image Source: Chicago Mag PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS STRONG)

Commitment to an “imaginative reshaping” of space and defining the identity of community are consistent elements in the narrative of the African American experience(s). Creating a space where we can unapologetically project, thrive, and revel in our blackness is essential to our inherent being. In the contemporary political and cultural climate, both in the United States and beyond, Black spaces are being infringed upon and threatened by the neocolonial process of gentrification. While gentrification has its economic benefits—which is the archetypal justification for exploiting underserved communities—it is causing a modern day displacement and rejection of black authenticity. Theaster Gates, this past week’s Goodrich C. White lecturer and native Chicagoan artist, is changing this narrative through art and community engagement.

Combining art with social justice and cultural dialogue, Theaster Gates is the epitome of an artist. Trained as a potter, a serendipitous performance artist, and professor of visual arts at the University of Chicago, Theaster Gates completes artistic projects as diverse as installation art to  urban renewal projects. But instead of recounting a laundry list of all his accomplishments and visual projects, Mr. Gates started his talk on Wednesday night with a humble story about the aesthetics and symbolism of his neighborhood hardware store in the Southside of Chicago. This particular hardware store was owned by an Indian immigrant and served a predominantly Black neighborhood. As Gates so eloquently put it, the hardware store owner “built an entrepreneurial life of listening to Black people” and a way for people in the community to aggregate. The hardware store is the place that contains the stuff that keeps things in life together. Two of the major threads throughout the evening were the notion of archives and the idea of the preservation of rituals. Gates describe the hardware store as an archive of daily life and the mystical qualities of the daily rituals that occur in the store are also an archival element.

In exploring the themes of archives and rituals, Gates commented on the aesthetics of storefronts in Black communities stating that they are “an archive of Black space. The aggregate of storefronts, just by the simple nature of their proximity or adjacency to one another, “acts as an index of Black space. He kept recalling the need to preserve these records of Black life in a world that is constantly threatening to erase them completely from memory. The rituals and things of the everyday have the right to be talked about and teased out because “objects are a byproduct of a way of thinking.” In other words, “things in Black space should be grappled with and acknowledged.” He compares this acknowledgement of Black space to the idea of the body as an archive, which exists as a physical manifestation of memories. He argues that a link in the gentrification of Black space is the disappearance of Black bodies from that space and decrease in generational caring. Gates demands that we reinvest in these communities by sharing deep knowledge and advocating for their protection. As a rallying cry, “buying together until we buy ourselves out.” This opening of space creates a new dialogue and makes the conceptual frame bigger for the growth and maintenance of a community. The major task is to ask something of the individuals that move into these communities to bring something better. 

An evening with Theaster Gates planted a seed of thoughtfulness in how to make an impact in the community with the hope that “there might be a great cultural come-up for everyone.”

To hear his inspiring words of art and social engagement, listen to his TED Talk:[AG2] 


Charity Gates, Web Content Editor

The Radical of the Family

One night over dinner with my family, we heard someone on TV in the background mention the Bill Cosby cases. I looked up from my plate and saw officers escort a stumbling Cosby through a crowd and said something along the lines of, “I’m glad the justice system is working for now.” I was optimistic. What followed was a long conversation about the legacy Bill Cosby had left behind, how it was a shame that these events came back up when he had done so well for himself and so much for our community (the NBC theory). Basically, it examined everything except the criminal charges he was facing. The phrase “I don’t really like this whole radical thing you’ve gotten into,” was uttered. I left the dinner table feeling frustrated and drained.

College has opened my eyes to a lot of things in the past few years, and nothing more so than the reality of race in this country. Just like that kid from The Shining seeing dead people, I see race almost everywhere. And while this has not made me angry enough to shun everyone who does not look like me, it has changed my perspective and my tolerance of certain things (cultural appropriation and harmful language, for example). In high school, I passed off certain events as harmless that I would never accept now. I was the shy, quiet, but still intelligent girl and I blended into my family dynamic fairly well. Since I came to Emory I have become less shy about being more vocal about many issues and current events through my writing and conversation. In my opinion, it is a positive change.

Even though these changes have helped me see the world in new ways, I do sometimes worry about the strain they have placed on my relationships with my loved ones. Many of my relatives have views that are nearly opposite to mine regarding race, gender, sexuality, and several other issues. While my conversation with my parents ended respectably and we bounced back to a happy family dynamic fairly quickly, this conversation has made me question how comfortable I am being so vocal when I know my own family will not always agree with me. I would not even call myself radical, but that is my label in my family. Am I willing to risk losing the love and respect of the people I hold closest to me?

 I know I am not the only one who experiences this on a regular basis. I have talked to dozens of Emory students of color and students whose identities conflict with the values of their families. Some students dread holidays because it means they will have to be immersed in an environment that is ultimately harmful to them. Many of these students, my peers, have to make painful decisions as to how much of themselves they will hide just to make it through the holidays. This decision is completely up to the individual and everyone should feel comfortable enough to express themselves in their family environment. I believe it takes work on both sides to learn how to have real dialogue, be open to new ideas and perspectives, and not be afraid to learn something from every conversation. 


Ashley Graham, Lifestyle Editor

An American in Spain

Via Joseph's blog

Via Joseph's blog

One of the most rewarding experiences that students can have while an undergrad is participating a study abroad program. An international education is not only marketable for future career prospects; it also gives you greater insight on the dynamics of the global network. Even though we are the group to benefit the most from international experiences, African American students have the lowest participation rates in study abroad programs due to a number of factors. If you are doubting whether or not you should embark on this incredible life journey, read on to see the incredible experience of Emory senior Joseph Welcome who is studying in the Salamanca, Spain program.

Black Star Magazine: What made you decide to study abroad and how did you choose Spain?

Joseph Welcome: I have always been interested in people, places and cultures different from my own. Coming into college, I knew I wanted an international experience. As an International Studies major, I also thought this opportunity would be a perfect experience to complement my degree. Originally, I was thinking about studying in Argentina, but the required Spanish level was high and it was not the type of exchange program I was looking for. I was looking for a program with more of a cultural/immersion component. The Salamanca program in Spain is perfect because I am living with a host family, going on cultural excursions throughout Spain and within the city of Salamanca itself, and I have been able to make friends in Spain who have helped me improve my Spanish language skills immensely.

BSM: How have you been able to balance academics and living in an exciting foreign country?

JW: I think I have been able to balance everything pretty well. In Spain I am in class for hours upon hours, but I am not given as much work to do outside of class. I think that is the main trade-off for my program.

BSM: Describe your biggest revelation about life outside of the States.

JW: For me, the biggest revelation is how easy it is to travel throughout the country, cities, and Europe in general. Public transportation and infrastructure in Europe is amazing compared to the United States! I can easily take the Metro in and around cities and there is no need for a car at all. There are also high-speed trains that can take you from one city to the next in half the amount of time it would normally take to get there via car or a normal train. You cannot say that about most American cities where a car is necessary, due to the lack of public transportation options. There are a lot of options for public transportation in Spain and the rest of Europe.

Via Joseph's blog

Via Joseph's blog

BSM: What surprised you most about traveling abroad?

JW: Traveling abroad has made me realize how small the world really is. I have realized that Americans aren’t so different from other people in the world and we are all connected in one way or another through similar interests or through what makes us different.

 BSM: Describe your weirdest travel experience. 

JW: I think my weirdest travel experience so far has to be when I went to Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain. Since we were on an island, one afternoon my friends and I decided to go to the beach. When we arrived, we saw kids playing in the sand naked, women topless, and most men in speedos or a few baring it all. This was not a nude beach. This was the first time we all went to a beach outside of the United States and it was interesting to learn that a lot of people are very comfortable with their bodies here and these things are not taboo like it would be back home in the States.

BSM: Do you think your study abroad experience has led you to a broader, more cultured perspective?

JW: I definitely believe my study abroad experience has allowed me to become more self-aware of who I am as a person and has reemphasized some of my interests and goals personally, professionally, and academically. I feel every student should study abroad if given the chance. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make!

Via Joseph's blog

Via Joseph's blog

BSM: What has been your favorite place that you have travelled to while abroad?

JW: Sevilla (Seville), the capital of Andalucía (region in Spain’s southern coast), is my favorite city I have traveled to so far. I think this city and region embodies what most of the world would think of as Spanish: tapas, bullfighting, tons of sun, and flamenco.  It is a beautiful area with amazing monasteries, palaces, and architecture different from the rest of Spain due to its Moorish roots (Arabs ruled this area from the 8th until the 15th century).  For these reasons, it has a different vibe from the rest of the country. Sevilla has some of the best tapas I have ever tasted and there are not too many tourists crowding the streets. Sevilla is a fascinating city with a lot to offer!

BSM: How would you describe your experience as an African American traveling abroad?

JW: From my perspective, my experience as an African-American traveling abroad has been mostly positive so far. First off, people do not see you as “African-American.” People see you as an American first and foremost before anything else. A lot of Spaniards and other Europeans can tell that I am not fully “African” by the shade of my skin and even by some of my facial features. When I first arrived in Madrid, I went to a tapas bar near my hotel to get something to eat. The bartender was from Senegal and he told me that he could tell from my facial features and accent that I was not directly from Africa or was someone of African descent from the UK. Some Africans and Afro-Latinos in Salamanca thought I was from the Dominican Republic at first because of the shade of my skin, but many could tell right away from my accent that I was American. Don’t be alarmed if some people stare, too. It is not out of rudeness, but out of curiosity. People are trying to figure you out. They know you’re not straight from Africa, but you have some African features, so many are thinking, “Where are you from? What race are you? Are you mixed with something?” As a matter of fact, tons of people in Europe have welcomed my American identity with open arms, despite their positive or negative opinion of the United States. Overall, during my semester here in Salamanca I have experienced the least amount of racism and/or discrimination I have ever experienced in my entire life. Students of African descent who are considering traveling abroad remember: if you can survive being black in the United States you will be just fine abroad.

For more of Joseph's travel adventures, check out his study abroad blog here

Via Joseph's blog

Via Joseph's blog


Charity Gates, Digital Content Director

Growin' Up Ignorant

I never wanted to believe in racism. When I was younger, I studied the civil rights movement and learned about the separate but “equal” facilities for whites and blacks. My dad told me stories about this restaurant that he would go to for lunch and how he couldn’t even step inside, he had to order from a window around back.  I listened, but I had the mentality that the past was the past and racism died a long time ago with the activists who fought for equality. I wanted to chastise older adults in my community who told us, the younger generation, to “Leave them [white people] alone ‘cause they don’t mean you no good.” I found it hard to believe that every single white person I met wanted to harm me or disliked me because I am Black. I wanted to believe that there are people in this world who are truly colorblind and I still do.

When I was younger, I thought racism no longer existed. I thought it disappeared, just vanished, the day Martin Luther King Jr. died. That’s the way it is portrayed, as if after his death, everything settled down and white people didn’t hate Black people anymore. That’s what it seemed like in my third grade history book. There wasn’t much information about the civil rights era after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., so I assumed that it all ended there. I know better now. I have grown a little wiser since I was eight years old. I have grown to realize that racism is more complex that white people discriminating against black people, and vice versa. I still don’t fully understand racism, honestly, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t either.  I just know it exists, because from the time I was in daycare until my sophomore year of high school, the majority of the students in my school were Black. My county was small, so the entire county attended school in the same school system, except for the white children. Whites lived in my county; I would see them often either out in town or in front of their homes. They whisked their children away and put them in private schools, a thirty-minute drive away from our town, or they would send their children to the military school. Maybe it was because the school system wasn’t the best, but we interpreted it as them not wanting their children to go to school with us.

I was oblivious to a lot of things growing up, but I cannot ignore what is happening in the U.S. right now. Sometimes, I want to shut my eyes to it because it is painful to watch innocent lives be lost, but I would rather be aware of what is going on in my community because it affects all of us. If the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has to be said to remind people that all human beings have value, we are clearly not where we need to be as a civilized people. I can only suggest to myself to start paying attention because I don’t want to be ignorant anymore. 

Markeisha Pollard, Staff Writer


Take Care

S: Guys. We need a self-care session this weekend.

Everyone else in the GroupMe: “I’m with it.”

S: Study session/kickback/venting session about white supremacy ft. snacks?

                  Normally when my GroupMe blows up in the middle of a class, I roll my eyes and try to ignore it. But I was so relieved to know that my friends were feeling the same way as me and dying for a break from the world. On top of being swamped with midterms and papers, we could barely get on the internet without seeing violence and threats against Black lives and bodies. We were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And besides, no one can turn down snacks and good company even on the best days.

                  In the past few weeks, I think everyone I’ve talked to has felt this way in some capacity. Dealing with the stress that comes with being a Black student at Emory is heavy enough, but hearing about our peers at other PWIs and their fear and anguish adds insult to injury. No matter how hard we fight, the oppression persists. And boy, do we fight. Through social media and organized demonstrations and protests and written demands, we show the world that we are not willing to merely accept this harsh, unfair reality that we’re given. We scream, we pray, and we demand change. And I love it. I love our resilience, our strength, and our courage.

                  It is so important to fight and to demand change. But I would also say that it is important to take care of ourselves in these difficult times. Try as we might, we can only take so much, and in order to be our best and to make the most effective changes we can, sometimes we need to step back and take care of our well being. So do what you love. Spend time with loved ones and fellowship, and vibe over how beautiful it is to be Black. Listen to music that makes you feel good. Go for walks, unplug from social media, dance, sing, write for yourself. Let your friends make you food, or cook if you want. Rant if it makes you feel good, and avoid the subject at all costs if it doesn’t. Cut out everything negative around you for as long as it takes for you to feel whole again. And when you’re ready and rejuvenated, rejoin the fight. 


Ashley Graham, Lifestyle Editor

Black Spaces, Black Places

(Source: Huffington Post)

(Source: Huffington Post)

Last week, sociologist Karyn Lacy came to Emory to do a talk on racial socialization in middle class Black families and communities. She presented her pioneering theory, Strategic Assimilation Theory, which stresses the idea that Black middle-class individuals’ socialization in American society is deliberate limited incorporation into the mainstream. She created this theory out of the dearth of research surrounding the socialization patterns of Blacks who do not fit the mold of the classic models of socialization of people of color: lower class, urban Black model or the immigrant model of socialization. Her research situates middle-class Blacks in society and gives them a visibility that has been previously ignored.

The idea that middle class Black families navigate a racial hierarchy that virtually renders them invisible permeates her discussion of middle-class Blacks. Marginalized from distinctions of “white” upper class positioning, Lacy highlights how “middle-class blacks maintained their own exclusive, black spaces because they had been denied full access to white institutions” where many informal barriers still remain. The biggest revelation lies in what happens to race as people ascend the class ladder, specifically in Black communities. The simultaneous process of double consciousness—a process in which Blacks perform different versions of themselves based on the social environment—and strategic assimilation creates a unique socialization pattern for middle-class Blacks.  To understand this unique process, Lacy compares two groups of middle-class Blacks: Blacks living in predominately white suburbs and Blacks living in predominately Black suburbs. One interesting link between the two groups was the fact that they were members of an organization designed to provide a space for well-to-do Blacks: Jack and Jill. For both groups, there is a belief in the importance of socializing with other Blacks in order to construct and maintain a positive Black identity. So, Jack and Jill is positioned to help in the process of developing a middle-class Black identity. The transmission of Black identity from parent to child occurs in an organizational context with Jack and Jill. The process puts an emphasis on maintaining strong ties to other Blacks and embracing Black culture.

Personally, this lecture spoke directly to my experience as a Black middle-class individual. Blacks who don’t grow up around other Blacks are considered missing an ingredient of Blackness and are reduced to status of outsiders. This is essentially how I felt growing up in predominately white suburban areas. In my social interaction with the few other Blacks in these areas, there were often disconnections between us primarily due to class differences. Even though I grew up in a household that promoted a positive Black identity, I felt like I had more in common with the white children around me because of the spaces I had access to. If I had been apart of social organizations like Jack and Jill, I would have had more opportunities to interact with other Black children who had similar experiences in society as I had. One of the biggest takeaways from the Lacy lecture was the importance of understanding the intersectionality and multidimensional nature of the Black identities in America. However, we are bound together as a Black community through the unity of Blackness in the diversity of our experiences. 

Charity Gates, Digital Content Director and Contributing Writer 

The Little Things

I wasn't allowed to play with white dolls when I was growing up. My parents were born and raised in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. Post-Civil Rights era, they learned to be cordial with whites and forgiving, but they never forgot anything they endured. My mom and I were in Wal-Mart and I saw the veterinarian Barbie. There were no black ones, so I asked if I could get the white Barbie. My mom said no. I whined, "Why not?" She said it was because she didn't have dolls that looked like her when she was a kid. She believed that dolls help young girls with their self-image. 

Girls are often told, "You look just like a doll and just as pretty." If there are not any brown dolls, how does a brown skin little girl learn that she is just as beautiful as a doll, too? I remember this. Although I did not fully agree with it at the time, I understood that my mother only felt this way because she grew up in a time period where a strong self-awareness was necessary for a young black girl.  

It's funny how big of an impact the little things from your childhood have on you. I didn't think the movies I watched, the music I listened to, or the toys I played with mattered when I was younger. I didn't think it would have an effect on me later in life. Life changing experiences occur daily and most people don't even realize it; at least, I don't.

As I began to write this article, I reflected on moments in my life that seemed insignificant. I realized that these irrelevant conversations and minor occurrences had a part in shaping who I am today. One being the day my first grade teacher told me that I wasn't as good of a student as my older sister, so I decided to dedicate myself to my studies and prove her wrong. Ever since then, I have been invested in my studies.

My mother was a young African American girl during one of the most crucial periods in African American history; it is obvious from her demeanor that her experiences of the time influenced her. I always believed that only the really important events in a person’s life had a profound effect. I guess it takes all of the big moments plus the small ones, and a few tragic instances to define who a person is. I encourage anyone who reads this article to reflect over your lifetime and consider how the little things contributed to who you are. 


Markeisha Pollard, Staff Writer 

7 Things No One Ever Tells You About Your First Year at Emory

1. CVS will ruin your life.

We all come into freshman year with this idea: “I’m going to make a budget and stick to it!” Nope. With $6 Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and $5 bags of Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups, you can say good-bye to any hope of staying within that budget.

2. Eagle Convenience will also ruin your life.

CVS can be a hike depending on where you reside on campus. So sometimes you might think, “Hey, I don’t feel like going all the way to CVS, I’ll just go to the convenience store.” DON’T DO IT. The prices at Eagle Convenience make CVS look like the Walmart of drug stores. It’s a heart attack waiting to happen.

3. Lofted beds are dangerous.

My mom wouldn’t send me any of the things I left at home until I ordered a guardrail for my lofted bed. Not even my passport. A kid in my hall fell out of is bed and sprained his arm. ‘Nuff said.

4. Songfest is the best thing ever. 

In previous years, Songfest was pretty lame. However, our freshman class raised the bar and made it one of my favorite events so far. And it has nothing to do with the fact that my hall won. (Raoul Hall, best hall!) In all seriousness, it is a great way to bond with other freshmen--my hallmates and I bonded during Songfest practice. We all traded stories about our lives back home and shared our anxieties about our very first year at college. And of course, Songfest was a great way to exhibit our Emory pride!

5. 150 Dooley Dollars = nothing.

Emory requires all freshman to get the most expensive meal plan. This plan includes unlimited meal swipes to the DUC and 150 Dooley Dollars per semester. I was ecstatic about all those Dooley Dollars! 150? So many, right? No. Between Cox Hall (two words: Twisted. Taco.) and Zaya’s, you will blow through those dollars in no time. I’ve been at Emory for two months and I think I have about 30 Dooley Dollars left….

6. WoodRec hours are the worst.

There are many times when I thought the WoodRec was open, only to find out I was mistaken. I would dream about the grilled cheese all week and when I finally arrived, I would see that the lights were off. Seriously, what restaurant (dining hall?) is closed on Friday and Saturday?

7. The people at Emory seriously care.
Professors, roommates, faculty—people at Emory are genuinely concerned about your wellbeing. The other day, my roommate slapped a honey bun out of my hands because I was already buying candy. She told me that I “didn’t need all that sugar.” My professors have been incredibly helpful and understanding. My philosophy professor made a point to tell our class that professors are not just here to help academically, but they are also here to help us socially and mentally.  My friends are dedicated to making sure that I don’t fail Gen Chem by helping me with homework. They give me encouragement and they push me when I need to be pushed. Having the support system that is in place at Emory makes all the difference, especially for a freshman.

It looks like college might not be so scary after all.


Maya Valderrama, Staff Writer 

Book Review: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah follows the lives of high school sweethearts Ifemelu and Obinze as they set their sights on dreams of living in the West. Through their time away from Nigeria they experience the harsh realities of racism and the struggles of living undocumented lives. Through all of the triumphs they have and the trials they go through, Obinze and Ifemelu never lose their feelings for each other as they explore race, identity, and a sense of belonging in new societies.

This novel is extremely well written, both because Adichie is incredibly skilled at writing fiction and because she does not sugarcoat the truth when it comes to racism and living as an undocumented citizen. The story is relatable, funny in all of the right places, and a truly heartwarming read.

Many of my favorite authors have mastered the art of scene writing, to the point where I can vividly picture places and people that I’ve never seen. Adichie is one of those masters for me. Her insight into Nigerian culture is all show and just enough tell, another skill that not many can master even after years of writing. You’ll feel right at home no matter where you are in the story, almost as if you’re experiencing everything right alongside the characters.

I appreciate Adichie’s honest and powerful story of love and triumph and the care she took to write such a beautiful work. If you can, this is definitely a wonderful read to have in your spare time. 


Ashley Graham, Lifestyle Editor