By Lyric Jackson
Another sun rises and another cup of “bounce off the wall” is poured as we congregate to RAA this morning. As with every new face we meet, each of us states the name given to us, the residential area where we feel most comfortable, the subject that interests us the most and the scholarly level we hope to achieve next school year. After ten minutes of heartfelt ice breaking, we were introduced to our speaker Salma Arzouni, who partners with Celine Barry for an NGO they’re building together, and also works with and NGO called GLADT. Salma revved right into her presentation by protesting the incapability of Berlin to accept intersectionality. She shared an experience with us that involved a man curiously asking where she was from. At this moment, I could relate, because I have frequently been asked this question on this trip. This being my first time out of the United States, it seemed unusual to me, but Salma reaffirmed that this happens often. Her story continued with the man asking if her parents owned a Kebab shop and concluded with the statement, “I was curious, because there’s a difference between them owning a Kebab shop and being doctors.” With that shared story, it was obvious that Germany’s determining factors of worth were race and class. Just as the assuming supremacist categorized Salma, so often does Germany as a whole.
Salma expressed her experiences in education and her longing desire to have a familiar space in that realm. Constantly, she would be the “go-to” person for POC issues and events at her university, fitting the example that Philipp Khabo Koepsell explains in “A Fanfare for The Colonized.” He writes, “It’s a story of explorers of the glory of those soldiers who drove thousands into deserts making space for golden acres for the white men’s dream of glory,” expressing the laziness of white supremacy (212). In most PWIs, the students and faculty of color are expected to deal with all things involving with race and class. With students of color being the foot soldiers of the institution, they lower their chances of actually pulling away from their work and finding a mentor. Salma argues that mentorship is especially effective when the pupil and the mentor share similar intersections to relate.
Let’s be real, what type of mentoring is occurring when a queer Black woman is being taught by a white heterosexist man? Absolutely none. Salma’s definition of mentoring occurs through self-care and awareness. Salma and Celine paired with one another and decided to create a project called Granatapfel (pomegranate in German). They chose the title Granatapfel because of the numerous amounts of seeds in different spaces that are all connected and united under the skin of the fruit. There is a need for mentorship that support intersections. Along these lines, I was honored to take my last class of the year with Dr. Heidi R. Lewis named Critical Race Feminism. Our class textbook, Critical Race Feminism, included “Failing to Mentor Sapphire: The Accountability of Blocking Black Women from Initiating Mentoring Relationships” by Pamela Smith that brought light to the issues of ineffective mentorships between Black women and white men studying law. Smith explains the Black women need to have the same opportunity as other white students by writing, “These career functions allow Black women or other tradition outsiders to obtain additional credentials and marketable skills that they can use to demand promotion, change jobs, or prove illegal discrimination in violation of Title VII” (385). When POC finally receive power, it is imperative that they understand the system and transform it to help the “others.”
Along these lines, Sandrine Micossé-Aikins and Sharon Dodua Otoo quote Misa Dayson in “Imagine Us There: Visons of Radical.Art.People.Spaces” when she argues that “the difficult task of minority literacy critics and artists is to acknowledge and embrace this position without accepting and reproducing it.” She continues by writing, “It has to aim for producing new objects of knowledge that are not based on a conception of rational man” (11). From today’s class, I understood that mentorship can create a pivotal point in an individual’s fulfillment of life. While this might sound slightly dramatic to some, Heidi’s informative mentoring has recreated my identity simply by challenging my thoughts. Similarly, Salma and Celine are creating avenues to provide that much needed experience to people that are best served through intersectional analyses.
Reigning from the central quarters of Arkansas, Lyric is a Psychology major with a minor in Feminist & Gender Studies. Known for her risk-taking character, she decided to attend Colorado College without visiting the campus once. When she’s not hypnotized by the tunes in her headphones, she spends time writing rhymes and short stories. Her number one priority is to make her family proud and comfortable. On a broader scale, she would like to intertwine her Psychology degree with media in order to start change in the Black community’s mindset. She would start with writing for TV shows to alter the images of Black characters and begin to create highly-ranked, all-Black casted shows that represent various images of Black women. Lyric is extremely grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad, and looks forward to more experiences.