Monthly Archives: November 2016

AFSA Le Diamant Pageant

So I went to the African Student Association’s beauty pageant, the ticket for which was generously given to e free of charge when I met some of the lovely women competing at the International Bazaar.

The even was held in Meacham Theater in the Student Union. While we waited for the pageant to start, contemporary African music played and the audience talked to each other. I made several new friends just in the span of 40 minutes (“African time is nothing like CP time,” one of these new friends told me.)

The pageant was small, with only five contestants, but there was no shortage of pomp or circumstance. The had a lovely opening number and then they introduced themselves and told us about their platforms. The topics of interest ranged from beauty across all sizes, to integrating and healing the relationship between Africans in the homeland and blacks in the Diaspora. Each topic had merit, and each woman competing was well informed and did an excellent job of putting forward her ideas.

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Then there was evening wear, outfit of choice, and talent. All of the outfit for all of the contestants were brightly colored with Afrocentric patterns. The women were all beautiful, but with different skin tones, hair length and styles, and body types. In the African-American community, there is still the idea of the “ideal” black woman: light skin, long hair, curvy but not too curvy. But all of these girls were equally celebrated by the audience. The talent portions featured diverse talent as well. There were songs, poetry, even spoken word. The last act was a song performed by my friend Joy, who is Nigerian. She sang a song that is popular in Nigerian church, and the whole audience joined in. I was amazed and a little jealous. This was the native language for so many people in the audience, and while it was cool that so many people got to experience a little bit of home while being so far away from it, I wished I knew the words so that I could join in too.

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In the end, Amarachi Pipi, a track star for the University of Oklahoma won the pageant. She had the most crowd support, but she was also an amazing singer and she carried herself with an air of well-deserved pride and approachable humility at the same time. Congratulations, Amarachi!

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You Knew It Was Coming – The Election

So I tried to stay awake to watch the election on Tuesday…but I was sick so I fell asleep at around 9 pm. When I woke up at 1 am, the first thing I saw was “Clinton Concedes Election to Trump” flashing on the screen. I genuinely thought I had entered the twilight zone. I checked my phone to see if I was dreaming. 15 messages from 8 different people telling me they couldn’t believe it. And, because of my impromptu nap in the middle of the night, I got to lie awake all night wondering where we’ll be in the next 4 years until my alarm went off at 8 am.

The next day, there were already changes visible in my peers. I was on the phone whilst waiting for my class to start, and knowing that I am currently in one of the reddest states in the Union, tried not to say anything too inflammatory. I went with a simple: “I’m not happy with these election results.” Two rows in front of me, a boy turns around and says: “Well then you can just go back to Africa.” I was so stunned and embarrassed and angry that I physically couldn’t even form a response. He turned around laughing and high-fived his friend.

Then I attended a protest that was incredibly well organized in the South Oval, and after a beautiful and empowering speech by JD Baker (one of our SGA presidential candidates), we marched to the Bizzel Statue at the top of the oval. After consoling and being consoled by total strangers and friends, I headed to class with a friend. But not before hearing someone say “what do these niggers think they’re doing?” And another girl say “Omg why are they out here?”

We were out there because America tried to show us that they prefer hatred and division to love and acceptance, and we were out there because we disagree. We believe in standing together, that we’re better together, stronger together. Supporting a friend or a neighbor or a stranger even when they don’t look like you is what America is really about.

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OU Students Show Solidarity at South Oval Protest – 11/9/2016

And the thing that bothers me the most about this whole thing is not even Trump himself (although he is a big part of it). It’s how people are already thinking that because we have a “leader” disrespecting minorities and disenfranchised groups that its okay for them to be blatantly hateful. Because it’s indicative of a deeper issue. I’ve never been so naive as to think racism doesn’t exist. I’ve watched covert acts of hatred and bigotry happen to me, to my family, to my friends who are Muslim or Hispanic or gay–I’ve seen it on TV and online and in life. Things like that are not good, not constructive, but unfortunately, are normal.

But overt racism, where someone just openly says “The N word” or chants “Build the Wall!”…things like that are supposed to be actions of the past. They are supposed to be things we learn about in history books and say “Thank god that’s over.” But now I am realizing that these things were not over, but that they were just hidden behind an illusion of progress and now that that image is shattered. Now that I see what America really looked like this whole time, I’m not so much afraid as I am tired. I feel selfish saying that, but it just makes me so tired, and world-weary, and hopeless. How many times have my ancestors surmounted an obstacle and handed the torch to the next generation, believing that their sacrifices have improved the world for their children? How many times will I, and my children, and my children’s children do the same, only to realize that we’ve been running in place this whole time? How many branches will be on my family tree before we achieve an actual post-racial America?

But I can’t get tired. I can’t get weary. I won’t let hopelessness overtake me. It’s worth it to carry that torch, for the next four years, for the next forty years, for the next four hundred years if that’s what it takes. It’s worth it, even when hope becomes a heavy burden. It’s worth it because of love. Not just love for my country, or my people, or my peers. But love for the people of the future, who will enjoy the fruits of my labors. My ancestors were brutalized. They were beaten, and raped, and killed, and lynched. I’m made of the same iron that helped them endure all of that, then for now I’ll endure the name-calling and the anger and those who say “you are so petty for caring this much” because one day…I won’t have to.

The International Bazaar

On Thursday, the International Bazaar took place on the South Oval.

The International Bazaar is exactly what it sounds like. There are international student groups and organizations selling all manner of gorgeous authentic items and promoting upcoming events. I was so impressed with the eagerness the students had in anyone who showed interest. Everyone was welcome to learn and take part in various aspects of each others cultures.

There were Indian students selling beautiful sarees and bangles, Angolan students selling gorgeous bracelets, and Pakistani students selling incredibly cute shoes. One moment I was walking through booths listening to students give brief cultural background on their wares and looking at how well-made and exquisite everything was…and the next I was filled with a sense of bafflement.

I know I can sound like a broken-record on this point, but I genuinely will never understand how someone can genuinely dislike another person on the basis of race, ethnicity, or nationality. I was surrounded by students who had come from all over the world, and who wanted to share their world with me as I share mine with them, if only through a lovely statuette or a colorful tapestry. In a way, every student there was the same and different. We’re all students working toward out individual goals, societal goals, and even when we leave OU we will still be part of the same worldwide community. But we all came from different places and different backgrounds with different stories to tell. In that moment of introspection, I was truly and honestly humbled.

I was roused from my inner thoughts by a member of the African Student Association, who  told me (warning: shameless plug ahead) that they would be having a pageant on November 10th, in the Meacham Theater in the Union. The pageant begins at 7:30, but doors open at 7. Tickets are $5 if you buy before the show, but still only $7 at the door. I am incredibly excited to go, especially after speaking to two of the candidates about their platforms.

Overall, I enjoyed the International Bazaar, and although I was unfortunately too broke to buy any of the things that I really REALLY wanted, I did get a ticket and an exciting event to look forward to out of it, not to mention a few new friends.

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My International Organization: SAC

A few weeks ago one of my professors from my “Understanding the Global Community” class emailed me and asked me to consider his nomination for the Student Advisory Committee of the College of International Studies. The aim of the group is to promote diversity and inclusion within CIS and University of Oklahoma. Of course I was immediately interested.

While I realize the Student Advisory Committee isn’t technically a student organization, the goals of the group are still incredibly clear and management of the SAC is freeform yet effective. I loved that I felt included during the first meeting, which is exactly the point of the CIS Student Advisory Committee. I knew my opinion was taken just as seriously as everyone else’s–even though I was one of the newest members.

Our meeting last Wednesday was to plan a film screening for the documentary “13th.” We discussed which professors would be invited to help lead the discussion on the film, what food we should serve, and most importantly–whether the subject matter was universally beneficial to all students and faculty who might want to attend. We also discussed how relevant the subject matter is in 2016 (and not just because of the presidential election, although that was certainly essential to the conversation).

It felt good to feel like I was part of something with greater purpose. Being a part of the SAC and GEF has so far only solidified my career plans to work for the United Nations in terms of humanitarian aid. I don’t want to only supply to people in need with money; I want to educate, and to encourage appreciation and respect.