Have You Heard?

Department - Mary Lou Williams Center For Black Culture

An Interesting Day in White Lecture​

I strolled through the giant wooden doors of White Lecture out of the blistering cold on a typical Friday afternoon, took a seat in the back rows of the room, and pulled out my notepad to take notes. The first thing I heard was “Masisi sal is a Haitian word that means faggot”.

The event consisted of a series of presentations by various professors on Black studies about different topics related to the common theme of Black Artfulness and Survival. Thomas DeFrantz, professor of the African and African American Studies Department at Duke, did a presentation on the art of Black social dance as tactic of Black resistance and survival.

Throughout history, Haitians have been subject to negative stigmatizations from the international community, particularly from European powers. As a response, Haitians began conducting social dances as a means of resistance to these negative depictions through positive self-expression. Thomas DeFrantz further explained these types of social dances in extreme detail. One social dance example he provided was Bone Breaking, a style of dance that comprises of combined, rhythmic movements of waving, tutting, and gliding.

Bone Breaking is a very powerful method of black expression and has widely transcended across the Caribbean and the continent of North America. Bone breaking evolved from Jamaican street dance, known as bruk-up, in which dancers mostly performed the dance to reggae and dancehall music. Overtime, the culture migrated to the North America, particularly to major cities such as New York City, and became heavily integrated into African American hip-hop culture in which the dance became more commonly known as Flexing.

The next presentation I witnessed was performed by Sherronda Brown, who mainly focused on the connection between Blacks and the apocalypse. I must say that I was truly bedazzled by the information that I was hearing. She talked about how institutional violence regenerates in the apocalypse and inadvertently dehumanizes and abject Black people which she describes as zombification. She depicts slaves as zombies that rise against their masters and lead other slaves to freedom with an intention of dismantling the established institutional system. Finally, she concludes that Black bodies never become human and that zombies reflect the ideology that Blacks are not human creatures and instead are beasts and savages who are socially dead.

I left that event as a different person. I had never thought about the Black experience in that way before. I am truly glad that I attended.​

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist

For those who regard the Civil Rights Movement as a decade long, predominantly male driven movement that started with Ms. Parks’ dauntlessness and culminated with Dr. King cheering “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last,” Malcolm X is the anti-King. For those who don’t know, Malcolm Little, turned Detroit Red, turned Malcolm X and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was nothing more than a teenage delinquent who grew up to preach racism and violence. To others, he was a Muslim minister, Pan-Africanist, and human rights advocate who was militant in his viewpoints, but only because he believe the government failed to fulfill the social contract to protect Black Americans.

Fifty years to the day of his assassination, this generation largely regards Malcolm X as the former, if they know him at all. Obliviously, we champion figures like Angela Davis, Assata and Tupac Shakur, and Mos Def, without even realizing that those individuals would be nothing without Malcolm X’s influence. With that being said, he deserves the same recognition that has been given to the idols of the Civil Rights Movement. Had it not been for Malcolm X, Cassius Clay would have not been able to “sting like a bee.” Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale would not have understood Black Nationalism and Public Enemy would not have known what it meant to be “Too Black, Too Strong.” His legacy has endured, but his name has since largely been forgotten.

Aside from his feats as an advocate, the conference sought to humanize Malcolm X, to take him out the militant activist perspective and depict him a just a man. His self-assured and professional demeanor was just the surface. He was a different man before prison and a different man after his pilgrimage to Mecca. Malcolm X believed in humanity and unity to combat oppression. During a time that mirrors the racial turmoil of the 1960s, Malcolm X is a role model for Black togetherness. "There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity…We cannot think of uniting with others, until after we have first united among ourselves.”​

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Black Love

“Black Love”

On the night of February 11, #BlackDuke all joined for the annual “Black Love” event. Well known in the black community, “Black Love” is endeared by many as an opportunity to discuss the perils of finding a “bae” in the Duke community. Discussed topics ranged from the hook-up culture, interracial dating, off-campus cuffetry, and how academic stresses can stifle a dating culture. For me, though, the narrative I fully expected was lacking from the discussion. Given that I can count approximately 3.5 couples in the entire black community, all heterosexual, in a community as rich with attractive individuals and diversity of sexuality as Duke’s black community, it is absolutely astonishing to me that so few people are “cuffed,” or even remotely considering the pursuit of cuffetry. Literally no one has a Valentine; it’s ridiculous. And since loneliness seems to characterize our community’s bae relations so accurately, I expected someone to cogitate the reasoning for this fascinating phenomenon, or at least bring it up as having been their experience in on-campus boo searches at “Black Love.” I misjudged.

On one hand, when I hear “black love,” I’m reminded of a shackling and oppressive history of black enslavement, and I think what besides a supreme love for a Divine Creator and community support could have helped our ancestors come to terms with the plight they had been subjected to against their wills? More contemporarily, “black love” makes me think of George and Wheezy. Florida and James. Raven and Eddie. (I’m deliberately leaving out the couple that had been my locus of understanding what black love could look like and be, because I’m sick of the husband telling me where on my gluteus maximus I’m allowed to wear my pants AND because that marriage was annulled in my consciousness the moment I discovered that the freakin’ obstetrician had “a thing” for violating women). Juxtaposed with those flowery and arguably unrealistic depictions of black love on television, however, is the seeming reality, both in the Duke community and in the black community in general—nobody is freaking cuffed! Why?

If I may venture a guess, I think that there are quite a few contributing factors to the phenomenon of general baelessness in our black community. For starters, you have to consider the type of black kids who are coming to Duke—mostly middle to upper-middle class; very respectable; having, for the most part, been to the best high schools and preparatory programs in the country. In effect, you have put 800 black valedictorians in an overwhelmingly white space, all of which have been convinced by their parents that exceptional negritude is fundamental to black success and is ideologically unproblematic. Some of us are a bit nerdy or socially awkward, but just about all of us have been told that we are “hot stuff,” contributions to the race—“uplifters”—for as long as we can remember. And yet, many of us have had difficulty navigating race relations, since our respectability made us “too white” for black spaces, and our melanin always made us stand out in white ones. I’d like to posit that that complex scaffolds an environment controlled by pride, formed out of black students’ scorn for their racial pasts. An environment of pride makes genuine, authentic interactions with other black students difficult to come by (to say the very
least). Pride stifles trust and vulnerability, the undeniable building blocks of any successful relationship (platonic or otherwise).

The same phenomenon doesn’t exist in our interactions with whites, I’d imagine, because they landlord the spaces we’re being allowed to rent, like the college environment—the spaces were not made for us, and no has blueprinted a re-model to accommodate our needs and preferences. And yet, we know how valuable the real estate is, and can’t forget how long the waitlist of exceptional negros is behind us; but, I digress. My interest is in deconstructing the environment of pride, such that we facilitate the kinds of loving interactions we’d like to see… (To be continued)​

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Connected Cores

HK on J was a tremendous moment in time that we got to experience. The march was held in Raleigh and the air was filled with opportunity. We got the chance to speak out against a plethora of injustices and utilized it.  I was with the Duke NAACP and many other Duke students as we took to the streets with the NAACP banner and chanted out against marginalization of black bodies and the ways in which structures in NC and the US help devalue the lives of other oppressed peoples.

Then we were able to hear the many activists speak out against these injustices with a concluding speech given by the NC NAACP President Reverend William Barber. He spoke of the heart as being a core and related that to the fact that we have to use our hearts to have true compassion for the folks who experience these injustices and how the lack of that compassion was very dangerous in and of itself.  As we think about what this march really meant to us and what issues we could personally relate to, it is also important to realize why the people marching beside of us are marching as well. For as we think about our fight against injustice, if we forget about the reasons that others are oppressed in the process then the fight has meant nothing. 

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Black Popular Music - CLG workshop at IHouse

February is Black History Month. It was created to understand the history of African-Americans from the time they were displaced from their homeland, the hardships they faced and their ongoing struggle to make this land their home. Their resilience and rebellion found expression in the form of music. In celebration of Black History Month, IHouse offered a workshop last Thursday about “Black Popular Music from Spirituals to Hip-Hop”, hosted by Lisa Giragosian, with a presentation by Alec Greenwald, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

The origins of Black music can be traced from the historical context. When people were brought as slaves, they lost their identity and tried to keep their culture alive through music. Their musical traditions began as a form of communication - call and response and their artistic creativity came to the fore when they made musical instruments like the banjos and drums from gourds and hollow tree trunks/ animal skin. The theme of early Black music was mostly coded messages seeking freedom from slavery, conveyed through simple lyrics (“Follow the Drinking Gourd”).

Alec took us on a historical journey through various genres that evolved under the secular traditions of Black music – from the melancholy notes of the blues to the vibrant and energetic beats of hip-hop.

  • Game Song / Play Song: Created by children, involving distinctive imagery and complex dance steps
  • Work Song / Field Call: Lifted spirits, offered encouragement, coordinated the movements of workers
  • Rural Blues: Three phrases performed in simple harmonic foundation, expressing feelings of sadness
  • Boogie Woogie: Evolved in barrelhouses, railroad camps inspired by rhythmic clacking of steam locomotives
  • Urban Blues (Electric Blues): Amplified form of Rural blues that evolved in urban areas
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll: Filled with teenage sense of rebellion, independence, and an aggressive beat
  • Soul: Gospel influenced music with passionate vocalizing, powerful rhythms and honest lyrics appealing to the younger generation
  • Disco: Dance music (soul, Latin-soul, funk) played by mobile DJs in discotheques; recordings exceeded the standard three minute length to keep the dancers moving
  • Funk: Instrumental, vocal dance music based on jazz, blues, R&B, soul; the rhythm helped them dance
  • R&B: Dance music incorporating various styles like jazz, blues; encompassing all types of popular Black music other than hip-hop
  • Hip-hop: Original poetry based on range of experiences and world views sung in rhythm and rhyme; four essential elements are – DJ, rapper, dancer and graffiti artist

Just reading or talking about music may not be that interesting. But Alec kept it lively by playing some music (on the laptop), humming tunes and dancing a few steps. In order to fully appreciate and enjoy Black music, it is important to understand their history and culture. As Lisa nicely summed up, the presentation was not only about music but a combination of history, geography, anthropology, sociology, culture, dance etc.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Live Jazz at the Mary Lou

Weekly Jazz Wednesdays add music to study sessions and coworker meetups

John Brown perched on a stool, his fingers flying across the thick strings of his bass. He closed his eyes as the drums, piano and trumpet conversed with each other, taking turns carrying the melody.

Across the room at Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, students studied notes on laptops and visitors watched the jazz ensemble, bobbing their heads to the beat.  The tradition of “Jazz @ the Mary Lou” is 10 years old, and Brown, director of the Duke Jazz Program, brings different musicians to the center every Wednesday evening, from professional performers to up-and-coming high school students.

Read more.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

The Other

In 2008, Ghana hosted the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the most prestigious pan-African football (soccer) tournament. When the Ghanaian Black Stars defeated Nigerian Super Eagles in the semi-finals there was so much jubilation nationwide, you would have thought we won the whole AFCON or finally achieved Kwame Nkurmah’s dream of Pan-Africanism. Why the craziness? Because Ghana and Nigeria are archrivals and we beat them on home soil. I remember how my heart pumped as I watched Nigeria’s demise. We had defeated them.

The idea that Nigerians were ‘the other’ came so naturally to me as a child. They had distinct accents, different names etc. But are they really? I will skip my ‘our-borders-were-defined-by-cruel-colonial-masters-dividing-ethnic-groups-indiscriminately #agape #weareallonebigfamily’ rant and concisely conclude that we should care equally about all human beings. Why does it matter that I was innocently brought up to see Nigerians as ‘the other’? Because, the mentality that people are ‘the other’ is partly the reason why the recent killings in Nigerian have received no potent response from Ghana or any other country.

In the past few weeks, the horrors of the ongoing brutal killings in Nigeria have struck a vein in me. We all know about the instability that has long plagued the North and we all know that it is escalating. What are we doing about it? As my Nigerian friend Bamidele Rebecca Iyanuoluwapo put it, ‘The killing of innocent people and destruction of properties in Wukari, Taraba State is low-key. The killing of people everyday in Jos, Plateau State is low-key. The fact that ethnic genocides are going on in some parts on the North is low-key.’ She is right. There are pictures of the horrors in Nigeria floating around but where is the outrage from the UN, AU, ECOWAS and Ghana? Why is it ‘low-key’?

I present no solutions to the crisis in Nigeria, but I would like to share two quotes from past Ghanaian presidents that I think articulate the progress of pan-africanism from independence to the present day.

1.‘Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.’
-President Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, on independence day in 1957.

2.‘Mind your own business’
- President Atta Mills, on post-election crisis in Cote Ivoire in 2011.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

50 Shades of Black: A Small Piece of My Black Experience

Throughout this piece, Black will be referring to all descendants of the African Diaspora, a definition I first heard given by Ms. Guinn. Maybe this dispersal (both forced and voluntary) can be seen as a means to understand the almost schizophrenic fluctuations of the definition of Blackness and the subsequent complexity of my people. It is a complexity that the majority of Black folks are unaware of. We seem to forget that the different shades of brown we wear are not the only variations amongst Black people, which can be seen in the ‘light-skinned’ vs. ‘dark-skinned’ feud that has followed us from the plantation. Each individual comes to define and reflect Blackness differently based on their experiences and environment. My arrival to Duke has caused me to look at my own reflection questioningly.

Back home, Blackness is characterized by grammatically incorrect sentences, dope boy dreams, athletic prowess, and ‘being about that life’, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me then. My story is like many walking the quads of Duke. I was called an Oreo, and when I spoke, I was told I ‘talked white’. Regardless, I continued to use Standard English, and I refused to take part in activities that made you ‘about that life’. My life may have been easier had I given in and went further to fit in, but I found myself taking pride in the fact that I didn’t. I looked down upon those who did. The story changed at Duke.

Duke was where I was supposed to fit in. Finally, there were Black people that understood that my culture was a reason to obtain excellence not debauchery. I was amongst some of the biggest and brightest Black minds in the country. Grades suddenly mattered to Black men, and Black females wore business jackets to class. The Mary Lou, which effectively acts as a community center, encouraged professionalism, class, and community rather than hoop dreams. Let’s not get it twisted. I am aware of the ‘ratchetivity’ that can take place; but somehow, it doesn’t come to define us. What transpired in response to these facts was shocking. My private speech got even more ‘ratchet’, and I yearned for the small talk conversations of the country. Suddenly, I realized that it needn’t be either or. I could be both a black scholar and be at home at home a) because it was my desired expression and b) because they function as different sides of the same dice, not opposite entities. It also dawned on me that my picture of home was not complete. Just because it is not Duke does not mean that each male is a thug and every female a breeding ground. I had to make my understanding more nuanced. In reaction to this, I have reached a few personal inferences.

I have come to the conclusion that my people needn’t be saved from themselves, as I had believed before Duke. Like we admonish students for going overseas with a savior’s complex, I had to chastise myself for thinking that my presence and education should somehow teach other people, my people how to live. In reality, my only job is to expand their options and learn from the experiences that are unfamiliar to me. I had to reconcile my ignorance to historic hip hop performers and the intense dependence that others had on their message and power with the shared understanding that you can’t walk around a store for hours and not buy anything when your skin looks like ours.  In other words, it’s about realizing that though some reflections of Blackness are a different shade from mine, they are still black.
After my own moment of fleeting enlightenment, I am curious. Do we accept and acknowledge the hues of Black culture being represented in the ‘hoods’ and ‘country bumpkin towns’ many of us are trying to break out of? More importantly, do we appreciate them? Should we? Or am I wrong? Are we all representative of one grand Black culture, because of our shared subordination? As Black Duke graduates, what shade of black will we be? It is my hope that, once we are out of this space, we will not forget to acknowledge each person’s shade of Black with understanding and openness, as we are equipped with the understanding that there are gradations, there is no one color.


There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment


“The British are coming!” “I had a dream” “That's one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind” “Sharkeisha! Noooooooooooooooooooooo” “Go to hell Carolina, go to hell, eat…you know the rest”

What do all these phrases have in common? They are all under 140 characters, but are memorable messages of great importance (depending on who you are). Twitter is a website and application that gives its users the agency to declare a thought, feeling, opinion, fact, picture, and so much more, so long as it fits within the limit. Twitter is great for having your voice heard amongst those that find you interesting enough to follow, but does it encourage fellowship, or hinder it?

Every Thursday night at 10 o’clock hundreds of thousands of people gather on twitter in front of their TVs ready to retweet, favorite, or reply to the best tweets about Olitz and Mellie, or of how annoying Quinn is, Scandal’s biggest stars. There are also Duke basketball days or nights on which twitter timelines are filled with tweets about how bad UNC is and how Duke basketball can’t be touched (whether true or false). One of the biggest highlights for many of us avid tweeters in the Duke black community occurs at random times. These occasions include late nights doing homework, on snow days, or bored on a weekend night. We all gather together to form what is called #BlackDukeTwitter. Often times you won’t even see the hashtag, but all who call themselves a part of it know when the entity is at work. Topics of discussion in the past have included possible new SAT questions, the poor living conditions in some of Duke’s dorms as told by some of their residents, and gratitude towards Larry Moneta for our many snow days. #BlackDukeTwitter meets to discuss everything from Scandal, Duke basketball, and food point struggles to the LDOC lineup, micro aggressions on Duke’s campus, and the struggle bus.

While these vibrant discussions are the highlight of many students’ paper and problem set filled days at Duke, I found myself asking the following question during spring break: “Imagine if we got together and kicked it and joked around in real life like we do on Twitter when Scandal comes on “slash” there's a trending topic.” While I joke around often with my friends, I have never had the opportunity to joke around like I do on twitter with a population as big as the people I regularly interact with in real life. During an event for the Black Women’s Union, a large group of us were together, but we also had our heads in our phones and laptops waiting for the next funniest tweet. What happened to discussing current events together while hanging out without our phones and laptops in hand? I sometimes find myself talking more about how funny a trending topic was, then about the topic itself.

In the end, we are all extremely busy here at Duke, and I don’t think lightening your mood by scrolling through tweets is detrimental, in fact, I think everyone should have a twitter. I just encourage people to not forget their friends behind the twitter handles. Be a part of #BlackDukeTwitter, but don’t forget what it means to be Black at Duke.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment


You take a step and then you take another step. You’re on the bus
You regret having only gone to sleep only a few hours earlier
You blame your team for winning but not really because you figure you could sleep on the bus and well, you like to brag about your team to people back home
You find a seat in the back of the bus because you want your space to sleep, think and be
You arrange your body in a manner that is somewhat comfortableYou fall into a sleep that your mind and body yearned for
But you have a nightmare.
You dream of a world where nonviolence prompted violence
You dream of a world where innocent children and adults were the victims of bombings
You dream of a world where the best and the brightest were pierced by arrows of hatred
You dream of a world where people your own age decided that they were strong, brave and selfless enough to risk their lives
Who jumped on buses,
Without knowing who or what they would arrive to
Your body jerks at the sound of parents screaming as they learn about their child’s death
You fall to your knees when you see the caskets of the young and innocent
Your heart aches for the precious faces that no longer smile
Your heart cries when you see the faces of the ones you love in these caskets
You wish you had the power to protect them, to shield them, to hold their hands
But you don’t.
You sit paralyzed
You sit paralyzed
And, You stay paralyzed
And then you feel the slap of a heavy rough white hand
Of someone who thinks you deserve such pain
You look down at your body
At the darkness that makes you invisible yet outs you as the most visible
The heavy rough white hand continues to destroy and dismantle
The blows persist
But so do you.
It continues for what feels like decades and decades and it then it feels like centuries
You persist, and you become stronger, and you are proud of who you are.
We are here! Someone’s voice sings.
Your eyes snap open and you take in a sharp breath
You slowly rise
Your neck is sore from the hard armrest and your lower back hurts
You sit up and look out the window
You’re back at Duke

But the heartache is as painful as ever

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Leaning Into Discomfort

Every day on Duke’s campus, we are faced with a subconscious decision –the red pill or the blue pill?

Every semester, 56 Duke students take the red pill. They embark on a journey about which they know nothing besides the many controversial Chronicle articles and Facebook posts. This journey ‘Common Ground,’ is formally described as “a student-led diversity immersion retreat program dedicated to exploring human relations in personal and powerful ways. “

It is easy to write this off as cliché, thinking: how could a single weekend possibly change anyone’s established ideals on race, gender, sexuality, etc.? Why would you go on a retreat with strangers to get to the bottom of any problems I’m facing?  Sadly, it is even easier to dismiss the newly “enlightened” Common Ground attendees off as “drinking the Kool-Aid.” I know these viewpoints well because, prior to attending Common Ground, I felt the same way. I was tired of all of the social media posts and articles praising the retreat for changing people’s outlook on life. I was tired of the cultish “CG Parties” I would hear about from someone who subsequently told me I wasn’t welcomed. And I was definitely tired of the secrecy associated with the event – as if people who’d went learned something that they couldn’t share with us mere and unenlightened Duke students.

Out of the 56 attendees, very few are black students. I originally wrote this article aiming to convince black students in our community that Common Ground is an experience. It should be shared by us all - whether we wanted to go for our own growth or to help others. Many of us, though we do not see ourselves as “racist,” will subconsciously align with racist or prejudice ideals. I have done so myself in my time at Duke. Without knowing anything about them, I often ignorantly assumed people outside of my own race looked down on me. Common Ground reminded me of how to look beyond color and into a person. However, it also reminded me that those prejudice ideals I had were not without basis. There are still many people on Duke’s campus who will judge me just by the color of my skin. I felt as though the retreat served a dual purpose – to prevent me from assuming certain individuals hold prejudices against me, and to open the eyes of those who are blindly prejudice allowing them to see their wrongs. I was told at the end of the retreat by a white female that I helped her “look inside of herself” and changed her perspective on a lot of things. There was an unspoken understanding; my words about life experiences had changed her perspective of black people . She was trying to unlearn racist ideals that had been instilled in her. She had acknowledged her racism and her privilege to be able to walk away from feeling her discomfort - instead she stayed and tried to learn more. Now while I thought this was a positive thing, others who I’ve spoken with feel as though this shouldn’t be our place as black students. Between Common Ground and conversations with black students who have had just about enough of defending themselves, I found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I tried to organize my thoughts from three completely different perspectives. The first: Your racism isn’t my problem. The second: If we aren’t speaking up, someone will on our behalf. The last: Will any of this ever really change regardless? Can I just take the blue pill and move on?

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

New Sites, New Perspectives

Public Policy

I am now a few days removed from my Roots to Rights alternative spring break experience. The trip included several hours riding from place to place, and it was a bit hectic to move from one hotel to another. But this experiential education tour gave me a unique perspective on a region I have lived in for my entire life but soon realized I had a lot to learn about.

Our tour of Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Mississippi stands as one of the highlights of the trip for me. Our tour guide, professor Jen Stollman, said that she wanted to demystify the South for people. As someone who grew up in Durham, North Carolina, I always viewed my hometown as a progressive hub that was merely surrounded by rural communities of Confederate flag-waving racists. But Stollman emphasized that people should not look at the South as a foreign, backward place, but as a complex region still dealing with the remnants of its troubled past. Stollman noted the contradictions of the South – how, for example, it included more interactions among whites and blacks. And yet, the first thing many people see upon arriving at Ole Miss campus is a towering monument for Confederate soldiers.

The trip included many unique opportunities. We heard civil rights icon Julian Bond speak at Alabama State University, visited the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama and heard a detailed recounting of Bloody Sunday – when six hundred protesters, marching in remembrance of Jimmie Lee Jackson’s death, faced billy clubs from police officers.

But it was also important to hear about these issues in the context of the twenty-first century. An archivist at the Southern Poverty Law Center spoke about Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, a 2012 book on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. We saw the urban blight of several Southern cities – the lack of jobs, affordable housing and quality education. Chandra Guinn, the director of the Mary Lou Williams center and a staff member on the Roots to Rights trip, said that the Confederate monument for Duke is the Aycock East Campus dorm. I had conversations with several fellow students like Daniel Kort, Aubrey Temple and Richard Phillips about the fractured social circles at Duke. And Ms. Guinn challenged me when I spoke of “self-segregation” at Duke as coming from a point of privilege.

The essence of the trip weren’t the visits to the birth or death places of Martin Luther King Jr., or the consumption of good soul food or the meaningful conversations I had with students and staff members. It was the combination of it all. This trip has undoubtedly given me new perspectives on civil rights, both fifty years ago and in the present moment.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

The Need to Pay Attention

Prospective Biology & Theater Studies Major

In the past few days, I've traveled to Charlotte, Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham with the 2014 Roots to Rights trip. We've visited a number of Civil Rights monuments and important locations, namely the King Center and MLK's birthplace in Atlanta, the Civil Rights Memorial in the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, and the Voting Rights Museum in Selma. 

It's been a lot to do in a short span of time, but the experience has been nothing but eye-opening and sobering. Walking through museums memorializing those who were murdered, beaten, lynched, abused physically and mentally, I began to fully understand what was being faught for and the sacrifices that thousands of people made to stand up for human rights. For the first time, I've begun to realize that, before now, I've known about the Civil Rights movement, but I haven't understood everything that it represented. It was not just a movement lead by such great people as MLK, Medgar Evers, Coretta King, and Julian Bond, but rather a movement of thousands, from all walks of life, united in nonviolent confrontation against extreme hate and violence. This does not diminish the work of their leaders, but we shouldn't forget those who were killed and injured and who we don't learn about in textbooks, those who raised their voiced against injustice just as surely as MLK, and, perhaps even more importantly, those who were killed not because of protesting or standing up for themselves but because they happened to cross paths with people who hated them for the color of their skin. One of the most profound things that I've heard in the past few days is Mrs. Till's request to give her son, Emmett Till (who was beaten to death for allegedly whistling at a white woman), an open-casket funeral, because she had had enough of the world turning a blind eye to the brutality that African Americans faced on a daily basis. We need to acknowledge and notice that these things are happening, all over the world, and we need to be vocal about it. Not acting is just as bad as actively supporting violence and hate crimes.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

The Emancipation Proclamation Challenge

I wonder if I am doing my part. On Monday as my face embraces the cold hard cement and I try to protect my bones from the cold rock of the Chapel Wing with 4 thin blankets. I am sleeping out to raise awareness about the homeless. As I wriggle endlessly against the now freezing stone my friend comes in and hands me a sleeping bag. My night has gotten just a tad bit less complicated.

As I am walking back to my room with the darkness slowly creeping away and the air getting ever thicker I am reminded that privilege is taken for granted, misused, and abused.  I am reminded that even though I am now about to experience the joy of morning, someone is about to experience the sadness of sunset.  As I walk around Duke and travel around Durham I realize that privilege comes at the cost of knowing that you are either using it to better society or not realizing its potentialities to better society.

What I mean by this is that everyone is occupying a space in which other people can be positively affected by the use of your resources. Your time, finances, creativity, resources, and etc. are what may be standing between people who are oppressed and the opportunity they need to dismount the foundations of the walls of injustice in their life. This oppression is not as evident as it was in 1863 but there is still a need for an emancipation proclamation. People still need help because oppression and injustice and the people who perpetuate them have just found the politically correct ways to hide and enhance them. Hegemony is real and evident and as students, professors, administrators, and etc. we have the power to make the changes that we want to see now.

With that said I implore everyone to ask themselves what they are passionate about. What are the places of oppression that touch you? Who can you get involved with that is already doing work in Duke and or Durham? Also understand that if you do not feel passionate about any issue that you have heard about, there is probably a system of injustice that is happening in front of your eyes and yet under your nose. Continue asking questions about what you are passionate about and I am sure that you will find that special issue that make you use privilege to empower and not over power those who are in the clutches of injustice.

Let us all remember that oppression, inequality, and unfair treatment are always around us. We have not been given all the resources that we have in life to merely throw it by the wayside. No now is the opportunity to march against injustice one step at a time. This is not something that I would implore of incapable bodies. Rather this is something that only the some of the best student’s professors, administrators, and etc. in the world could be called to do. The only question now is, will you accept the challenge?


There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Come Celebrate Mary Lou Day!!!

The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
Cordially Invites You to Enjoy A Late Afternoon Delight
featuring Live Jazz & Fabulous Dessert

Thursday, May 1, 2014
3:00 - 5:00
Mary Lou Williams Center
201 West Union Building

In celebration of YOU, our 30th Anniversary & in gratitude for another successful year...
In honor of our namesake’s 103rd birthday & 
In gratitude for the awesome service of our graduating student staff!!! 


There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Why “Circa 1963”?

Each year we seek to make the Abele Awards an extra special event by theming it with something from the history/creative genius of Black life.  In the past, we’ve honed in on the Harlem Renaissance, contemporary Hip Hop, and The Wiz. This year we take  for our inspiration both the year of integration at Duke and the sound of Motown. We imagine that young people in 1963 had to be listening to the “sound of young America” as artists like, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, and The Vandellas played on their record players. Thus, the sound of Motown would have been spinning on their record players, as the world would have been spinning toward equality.

We have designed an Abele Awards that continues to highlight the contributions of Black students annually, and that honors what five courageous "crossovers" did in the evolution of a world class university! This year's Abele Awards is a tribute to 1963 and the Motown Sound. In our planning we seek to honor the style and significance of the Motown era by designing the space to emulate elements one would expect to see from that era.  Our research has included menu, video, songs, attire, people, and history. We are hoping to bring all of that alive in this “Circa 1963.”

So, the 27th Annual Abele Awards, seeks to turn the Searle Center into a musical soundstage that brings the music of Detriot to Durham on Saturday, April 13th, 2013 at 6PM.  Join us in our celebration of Black student excellence!

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

The Sound of Motown in The Mary Lou

As the Mary Lou Williams Center is engaged in honoring the legacy of those first Black Undergraduates who came to Duke in 1963, we have begun to imagine that time and space.  We imagine that some of them would have been watching the news and would have seen James Meredith graduate from Ole’ Miss.  We imagine that weeks before entering Duke, some of them would have just heard Rev. King at the March On Washington. 

And, all of them would have been listening to the burgeoning sounds of Detroit emanating from Berry Gordy’s Motown.  We imagine that many of them would have been listening to singers like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, and The Vandellas. Thus the Sound of Motown would have be spinning, as the world would have been spinning toward equality.

With beauty, drama, talent, and intrigue all a part of the Motown legacy, we thought it important to showcase “the music of the 60’s” as an homage to our beginnings.  Come see our new “wall” exhibit as it uses albums, images, and all things “sparklely” to highlight the legacy of Motown, as both a reminder of 1963 and as foreshadowing to our upcoming Abele Awards, entitled “circa 1963.”

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Black Student Alliance Invitational 2013

While you've probably heard a lot about Duke, this is the time when you come see for yourselves. We believe you will come away informed, inspired and impressed and in fact have been working hard to make sure of it.  We know you all have a choice - and so we are grateful that you have chosen to give us the chance to show you the Duke that is so special to us.  

Below (and attached) is the schedule that gives you a sense of what will be going on. Should you have questions about this weekend’s events, please do not hesitate to contact us via email (mlw@studentaffairs.duke.edu) or phone 919.684.3814.


Duke University’s Black Student Alliance Invitational 2013
Thursday, March 28 – Sunday, March 31

At-A-Glance Schedule
Events are open to the Duke community unless otherwise noted.


Thursday, March 28
8:00 am – 4:00 pm                                      Students Arrive & Registration [WEST UNION, OLD TRINITY ROOM/ROOM107]

8:00 am – 4:00 pm                                      Classes

9:00 am – 4:00 pm                                      Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture Open House

10:00 am & 12:00 pm                                 Tours of West Campus
11:00 am & 1:00 pm                                   Tours of West Campus

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm                                      Chapel Climb sponsored by Black Campus Ministries

5:30 pm – 8:30 pm                                      Welcome Reception & Dinner [P-Frosh & Special Invitation ONLY]

10:00 pm – 12:00 am                                  Midnight Bowling w/ 2016 [P-Frosh, Hosts & Special Invitation ONLY]

Friday, March 29

8:00 am – 11:30 am                                   Classes

8:00 am – 11:30 am                                   Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture Open House

11:30 pm – 1:30 pm                                   Engineering Lunch hosted by NSBE with Pratt Faculty & Tour of Facilities OR Getting What You Came For: Resources & Opportunities Program (Trinity)

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm                                     50 Years Forward: A Faculty Forum on Duke & the Global Future

4:30 pm – 7:00 pm                                    Students of the Caribbean Association (SOCA) presents Caribana

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm                                   National Pan-Hellenic Council hosts BSAI Step Show

10:00 pm – 12:00 am                                 Game Night (NCAA MBBall, Wii, Spades, Dominoes, etc)

11:00 pm – 2:00 am                                   National Pan-Hellenic Council hosts Step Show After Party                                                              

Saturday, March 30 

10:00 am – 11:00 am                                 Bus Tour of Durham [Breakfast provided] (optional) OR  Breakfast @ The Marketplace

11:15 am – 12:30 pm                                  “What’s the Real Deal”  [P-Frosh ONLY]

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm                                      College 101: Mini-Classes w/Faculty

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm                                      DukeAfrica presents Jabulani Cultural Showcase   

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm                                      BSAI Farewell & Slideshow [P-Frosh ONLY]

8:00 pm – 9:30 pm                                      Artful Beginnings: An Evening of Black Excellence (Art Exhibit & Spoken Word)

10:00 pm – 2:00 am                                    From ’63 to Infinity: An Evening of Black Excellence (The Soundtrack of a Half-Century)

Sunday, March 31

Departures throughout the day

6:30 am – 7:30 am                                        Easter Sunrise Service

9:00 am & 11:00 am                                     Easter Sunday Service

We look forward to seeing you during BSAI 2013!!!

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

My BSAI experience was amazing

by Dorielle Obanor

Every Spring I can expect for the chronicle to release an article or op-ed piece challenging the necessity of Duke’s Black Student Alliance Week. Programs such as these promote self-segregation, racial division, and an unrounded experience of Duke these articles assert. Personally, I have grown tired of these wrongly aimed and ill-informed articles, as many with strong convictions have neither participated in BSAI events nor have taken the time to speak with attendees.

My BSAI experience was amazing. For me, BSAI weekend was important opportunity for me to experience what being a black student is like at Duke a predominately white institution. Furthermore, it allowed me to assess the amount of support and solidarity both within the black community and outside. Having several prestigious schools on my list, I wanted to ensure that wherever I attended I would feel not only comfortable but also supported as a minority student. Throughout my weekend I interacted not only with black members of the Duke community, but several p-frosh who were there for scholarship interviews as well as various friends and acquaintances of my host. I left BSAI with a strong conviction that Duke University was the best fit for me, and that weekend is one of the main reasons why I ultimately decided to attend Duke. Because of this, I undoubtedly support the efforts of this weekend.

This year we celebrate 50 years of black students at Duke, retrospectively 50 years is not a long time ago. Weekends like BSAI are extremely important in ensuring not only diversity at Duke but showing black students that Duke is an environment where all can flourish and be supported. While this short weekend is merely a glimpse of the Duke experience it is useful and necessary. This year, I challenge my peers to take the time to experience the step show, Jabulani, discussion panels, and performers that BSAI showcases, rather then taking to the chronicle to criticize the weekend. Take the time to speak with p-frosh that come from across the country, the students at Duke that commit their time and energy in to putting the weekend on, and I’m sure you’ll realize how impactful and important BSAI is.

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment

Through The Years

With all of this talk about celebrating the 50th anniversary of Black Student Life at Duke University, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture wanted to make sure that it was central to this commemoration.   As such, “Through The Years” is a photographic exhibit that looks back – Sankofa – at Black Student Life.  The mostly Black and White pictures seek to showcase eras of Black life that include Duke’s first students, periods of protest, organizations, and “Chronicle” articles.  Crystal Fuller, curator of the exhibit, is hoping that the “snap shots” provide insight into the unique experiences of integrating one of the world’s best universities.  Join us as we take a sneak peak into the Black Student experience at Duke University by visiting the center to witness “Through The Years.”

There are 0 comments on this post

Add A Comment
Subscribe to RSSMary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture