Black History Month: Thoughts on Williams

Angel Simmons ’03

As a first year student here at Williams, I have heard of apathy on this campus. I felt I knew all there was to know about life in the purple bubble. However one recent experience demonstrates that this campus can move from a state of apathy towards one of compassion.

In December, my friends and I, as freshmen members of the Black Student Union, decided to sponsor a toy drive through the Berkshire Center For Families and Children. You can imagine my surprise when this marvelous campus opened its heart and wallet and gave money for us to purchase toys for several deserving local families. The FBSU began by soliciting first year entries and faculty of the college where we earned nearly $800 in one week’s time. A couple of us then went to Mission on our only available evening during finals. With a visit just to Dennett and Mills we raised $200! The FBSU and I are so pleased with the generous response we received on such a spur of the moment project. The Berkshire Center For Families and Children, the Freshmen of the Black Student Union, and the numerous families you helped sincerely thank you.

Adrienne Michelle Denson ’00

As my classmates spouted notions of “universal sisterhood” and “capital F” feminism, I knew that my study abroad semester in Namibia would be long and hard. I problematized their understanding of feminism as I questioned where and how women of color fit into their discourse.

I was disgusted with their disregard and/or ignorance of the intersections of gender, race and class. I was even more frustrated, however, as I realized that I too shared similar ideologies. I was calling for the “unity” and “community” of black students here at Williams while I neglected to see the complexities of our experiences. While black people—worldwide—share similar skin colors and consequent oppressions, we are not a homogenous group of people.

From abroad, I saw my own ignorance, and I became more tolerable of the women in the program, for we all learned together that unity and coalition can only be achieved through a celebration and an understanding of our differences.

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