A First Year’s Take on WeSpeak

The following is an opinion piece and does not express the opinions of any groups the author may represent on campus.

I learned about WeSpeak as soon as I arrived on campus. I’m a student who identifies as a person of color, and I learned from upperclassmen that also identify as people of color, how special WeSpeak is. Like Haverfest and Plenary, WeSpeak is a highlight of the academic year, and transformative to the Haverford experience.

WeSpeak is an event where students who identify as people of color share their experience on Haverford’s campus. Much like Pluralism and other Quaker Meeting style discussions, students speak out of silence. It is a Brave space, where voices that are so often marginalized, suppressed, discounted and dismissed, can finally be heard. We are given the opportunity to lean into discomfort, and give everyone the opportunity to grow.

What interests me most about WeSpeak is the fact that only those that identify as people of color can speak. We’re given the opportunity to convey our thoughts and feelings, unfiltered and uninterrupted while our white peers take the time to listen and stand in solidarity. My stance on this aspect is evolving—while I see the value in having this sort of space, I can also see how it may be awkward for my white peers who can’t share in this space.

I’m not sure if I will talk during WeSpeak. Ultimately, I don’t know if my white peers can ever fully understand where I’m coming from. I can share about my experience in the classroom (what is it like to be the one black man in a class of 20 students? Interesting to say the least…) or on Founder’s porch (have you ever had a middle schooler address you by a derogatory term?). The conveying of these and many other experiences, though, can be relieving. Some students worry about what dress they may want to wear to a party, but are these same students aware of the struggle of some of their peers to afford that dress? Do they know of students who wonder if they can afford anything to wear to a party?  Or of the student  perhaps feels alienated and ostracized by their Customs hall, or even by the Haverford community, as a predominantly white institution at large? Sharing then, in this space can give the chance, if only for a moment, to be relieved of this extra burden.

Ultimately, I’m thankful and excited for this space. Other friends at other institutions simply don’t get this opportunity. It’s not to be taken for granted. That being said, I would like to see action following WeSpeak. There are times to talk, to reflect, and once these are done, to act. WeSpeak accomplishes nothing if the status quo is upheld, and if tangible change isn’t brought forth.

WeSpeak is Sunday April 24, 2016 at 1pm in the Quaker Meeting House.

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