Hopefully all of y’all in Cyber-Sewanee got a chance to hear Davante Jennings speak at the Women’s Center this week. Many people from different groups on campus gathered to toast his work with the African American Alliance at Sewanee. As a sophomore, Davante has taken on the role of President of the Sewanee chapter of AAA and had much to say about the group’s involvement on campus.
Upon introducing himself and the his organization, Davante stressed the group’s goal of planning and hosting events that the AAA wants on campus. Recently, the University hosted Francios Clemmons, an African American Opera singer, as a special event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. While this event was a great cultural experience for Sewanee, the administration conveyed their feelings that the African American Alliance was the direct beneficiary of the performance—assuming that the members of the organization would appreciate the event because the performer was black. “We want to put on the events that we want to see,” said Davante, expressing that the African American Sewanee community wants the opportunity to actively set up and plan events to enrich our school as a whole.
The toast didn’t stop there. Davante and the Women’s Center leaders opened up conversation for ways in which other individuals and campus organizations could get involved to make Sewanee a more aware and inclusive place. Everyone agreed that our community could use some broader horizons, but many were unaware of the scope of problems with inclusion and acceptance on campus. As someone who does not typically personally experience outright unfairness, my eyes were opened to the strange ways we interact at Sewanee and it caused me to ask “why?” Why do people consistently sit with the same people at McClurg? Why do people gravitate into social groups in which they are surrounded with people who look and act like they do? These questions about who we are and how we feel about it are the questions that Davante brought to our attention this week. These aren’t questions or ideas for one Tuesday, they deserve strong consideration, brainstorming, and conversation. The only way our community can actively change and adopt a freer, more open, more accepting Sewanee is for the conversation to turn into action, so start the conversation and don’t let it stop. Do your best to think of ways we can make our campus life better and then share them! One way you can get your brain-juices flowing is by attending the African American Alliance’s first meeting of the semester this Sunday at 6pm in McClurg. See you all there!