Letter to the Editor: The importance of truthful story telling following Black History Month

Shirah Moffatt-Darko, Contributing Writer

Last month, The Bucknellian wrote a story on the Black Student Union’s Black Arts Week Festival. Last month, The Bucknellian also got it really wrong.

Black Arts Festival, as you might see in the name of the event, was NOT a celebration of diversity, as it was laughably called in the article formerly titled: “Ninth annual Black Arts Festival: a celebration of diversity.” If you are referring to an event done by a single-race group such as Black people, Latinx people, or Asian people, do not refer to it as an event focused on diversity. If the event is for and by a single racial group, there is nothing diverse about it.

Perhaps, you’re trying to be politically correct, but Black or African-American are not dirty words. Calling it an event on diversity erases the fact that it is focused on a specific historically marginalized group, so stop using some buzzword that has been grossly co-opted and bastardized to describe this. Furthermore, this language still paints whiteness as the norm. Diverse, meaning “showing a great deal of variety,” (first hit on Google), is not synonymous to non-white.

Black Arts Festival also started on Wednesday with a talk by Cornell’s Professor C. Riley Snorton who spoke about the intersections of Blackness and queer identity before it even had the fashion show. Just because that is one of its better known events does not mean it was the only thing that BSU did. The Bucknellian implied this when it said that the festival week started on Friday, the day before the fashion show with the Bisonettes Ball: a majority Black, but totally unaffiliated organization. This misrepresentation implies that all we offer to the wider campus is parties and entertainment.

Of those who were interviewed for the Black Arts Festival coverage, although beloved members of the University community, not a single person was Black. How, in an event for and by Black students, do you manage not to interview a single Black student to ask them the significance of the event they put on to honor their heritage?

So, why does any of this matter? Why am I talking about a month old article in a small school newspaper that mischaracterized a four day event especially when the newspaper fixed it’s online version to be more accurate? Well, let me offer some context: Black people in the United States exist in the context of an anti-Black society meant to, as a part of the subordination and dehumanization project, erase and undermine their contributions to the society of which they are citizens. The University, although, smaller, is no exception. Part of undoing racism on this campus, is going to be telling the truth about what Black students experience and contribute to this campus. Some of the most beloved members of this campus are members of the Black community, but like some of y’all tell it, we have not contributed anything. It never hurts to ask questions especially when the event was put on for the whole campus. To be sure, Black students are also capable of telling our own stories, but not every single one of us should have to join The Bucknellian to get accurate representation, especially when we have done the work of orchestrating events from our viewpoint. Essentially, when we trust you to tell our stories (a rare occurrence), tell them right or not at all. Black students deserve this, and if you aim on doing right by us, you should be committed to doing so.

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