Return to Obieland and the Need for Black Student Groups

This past weekend was a lot of fun, kinda crazy, and pretty eye-opening. There was a lot of stuff going on, much of which I didn’t get to, but just watching people and how they act and letting them speak uninterrupted probably revealed the most about not only them but myself and what I believe/how I think.

There are many things I could talk about during this weekend but Saturday was probably the most interesting of days.

After a pretty entertaining black alumni basketball game and half of the football game v. case, my afternoon was kind of a low point. Mostly because of the realization that  I tend to invest a lot more energy and care a lot harder about people than they often do for me. And when you realize that not just in general, but in regards to a specific person, it hurts. And you often can’t even explain to them why it hurts because that relationship is so out of balance that they’re not hearing what you’re saying as being important but laughing it off as ridiculous. It’s difficult to discern when you’re being caring and making yourself available rather than being taken for granted, almost abused in a sense—being that person that someone goes to only in the event that all else fails. It really sucks to realize that someone thinks that no matter what they say or do or how poorly/indifferently they act, that you’ll always be there—so they think “eh, I’ll get to them when I get to them, see her when I see her, find you when I’m bored, or call you after I get done with everyone else.”

But I won’t always be around, or stick around for that. I just need to realize that some people will just be acquaintances—someone I knew when;  was “friendly” with…I’ve got to stop calling them friends if it’s only one-directional.

Later that night after the Wendell Logan tribute concert, Marissa and I were talking to a black alumna who was into science and was now a doctor. She and her husband spoke nothing but truth as they went in on oberlin—they’re not trying to help us or give us the resources we need as black students, ESPECIALLY black science students. She had a lot of sound advice and is someone that I wish had been back to oberlin to talk to science students when I was still there, because I think everyone needed to hear what she had to say about getting out of science alive, with our dignity, having learned something, and prepared to go on.

Then somehow we got on the topic of student organizations, and seeing her face (and other alums after she called them over to hear this conversation) was kind of sad when we told her that not only were many organizations fading, but many had just DIED.

The story has been going for sometime that we just need to let them die because there isn’t a need for them. But that’s so far from truth. It’s just that most students cannot or will not look past their perceptions of organizing, afrocentricity, and their biases of what they “think” these organizations used to be about. We don’t actually know since we don’t have good records and it’s not like anyone really wanted to take the time to figure out what they stand for.

But like clockwork, EVERY YEAR, when something goes wrong, it just proves how much we DO need student organizations—but still people don’t believe in the power of collectivizing our voices. Or don’t see organizations as being the vehicle for change. I don’t care how many time people tell me I’m crazy, because it’s me and people who think like me who are making real change on oberlin’s campus—not just yelling aimlessly at the sky about black power, and radical feminism, and how oberlin just sees us as statistics (mind you these shouts only come when something blatantly doesn’t go in our favor, and is set aside the 95% of the rest of the time when oberlin has us deluded into thinking it is going our way so we just sit around being “happy”).

When they tried to strip us of our super singles in the house, it was me and Danielle (two people who didn’t even live there anymore) who organized the meeting and sat them down to listen—the RAs barely did shit, neither did most of the people living there. And when a follow up should’ve been done, it didn’t because I didn’t do it and, of course, no one was willing to take any initiative. So we got the rooms back for one year, and I think some of them are gone again.

When we didn’t get tickets for Stevie and Bill, everyone sat around pissed off, while some of us went and talked to some people and let them shove their foot in their mouth. And to make things worse, not only did people not take any initiative to organize and voice their concern, certain members of our community voiced their concern against us saying that we didn’t have any right to those tickets, and were thus wasting our time. But when those 30 tickets to EACH event popped up less than 24 hours later, those people who sat around saying nasty shit to and about me, and about other people who were in the group, and about our efforts, still got the tickets. I mean if the 5-6 of us WOMEN hadn’t said anything at all and gotten results the 15 conservatory MAJORS probably wouldn’t have grown a pair and made the ask that resulted in them getting tickets as well.

Honestly, I think we’ve forgotten how powerful our voices are and are scared of them—which truly brings irony to this idea of being “Fearless.” More often than not our collective action has resulted in change on this campus, and it’s mostly been done by a handful of people at most; imagine if it were a considerable portion of the community. And then to decide that the idea of community is insignificant is really interesting when you sit around and listen to everyone’s “individualized” complaints and see how they’re all really the same thing rooted in different asepcts of racism. We love to reinvent the wheel, which is why we don’t make progress:

  • We want to have tutoring programs or get preparation to become teachers but found keeping the Shulé school insignificant
  • Everyone sits around writing poetry and stories, yet sees no need for NOMMO, and In solidarity is floundering
  • We have creativity flowing out the ass and yet Pseukay is dead, we have no real dance troupe unaffiliated with a class, and OCBMG decides to play games
  • We have people who want to praise and sing and yet instead of utilizing VFC or Agape, people feel the need to start their own side groups
  • Everyone in the sciences is ALWAYS struggling and needs tutoring or could use more information about internships and schools, but OBSSO is defunct as well as MAPS

It just doesn’t make any sense. We get into our own personalized power struggles and caddy relationships that prevent any collective action and sit around and wonder why things don’t change. We don’t need any help being a fractured, silent, ineffective force on campus because we’re quite adept at doing that ourselves. Being an active part of the community doesn’t mean everyone has to be gun-slinging, afro-pick having, black studies majors, living in the house—and there are things that people will always disagree about given that being of similar descent doesn’t make us all one in the same. But that personal bullshit, those ignorant misconceptions and egos about who’s gonna be in charge, keeps us from doing anything. It’s just sad because we have far too much to say to be silent for lack of organization.

But I truly digress…the rest of the weekend was great and I was really glad to see some people, some friends, some professors, and I hope that I can get back there soon because I really do miss Obieland.

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