Black women share their experiences at a Reframe and Reclaim virtual event

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“Joy”, “support” and “understanding” are just a few of the words that came to the minds of attendees at the start of the Reframe and Reclaim virtual event on Wednesday evening.

Rakeem Robison started the evening by asking people what words best reflected the atmosphere of the space created for the event.

Robinson, a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Journalism and research fellow at the Center for Communication of Public Interest, was writing an article about feminism and the experiences of black women when the idea first occurred to her. on your mind. He was inspired by his mother and the way he believed she was seen by the world as a black woman. He knew that other black women shared similar experiences, and after studying this topic and exploring the opportunities UF had to offer, the concept of Crop and recover was born.

“After a few conversations a few semesters ago, [I] came up with the idea of ​​offering a space to tell stories, ”he said. “To tell stories about the things black women do, or give them the space to really paint a clear picture of what it means to be them and how they navigate different spaces.”

The University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) hosted the event for black women to share their experiences through selections of their own prose and poetry on Zoom.

Speakers discussed sensitive topics ranging from anti-black racism on the UF campus to “code shifting,” where black women feel pressured to change their dialect and the way they act in certain contexts. Resources for black students were also included during the event, including services provided by UF CWC and Academics for the survival and well-being of blacks.

Robinson said that as a first generation student he is grateful for the opportunity offered by UF to launch this new initiative.

“I didn’t think it would be possible to access opportunities like this,” he said. “I identify as a black man, and being able to create and present such a space for black women is a huge encouragement for me – to realize that we are all fighting the same fight and that we have to fight alongside each other. “, did he declare. .

Robinson said the name of the event was created by Rosa West, Ph.D. and Ebony Okafor, Ph.D. at the CWC, who believed Reframe and Reclaim reflected how black women should take charge of spaces that are projected to them.

“What sets this particular event apart is that for the speakers and those who allow themselves to be vulnerable by sharing their stories, we create a space for them to get to know each other,” he said, ” but also to collaborate outside of that space, allowing spaces for dialogue for people who are affected in any capacity about or in response to the event or the individual speaker, to engage with them and let them know how they feel, calling them to a new standard of change.

While Robinson doesn’t necessarily think there is a lack of awareness in the community, he said there is more to be done to support black women and give them a way to share their stories and nurture them. each other. Instead of directly addressing the disconnect in the community, he said individuals need to take action. He added that the CWC is a tremendous vehicle for change as it can deliver mental health services that are not always readily available everywhere.

Ciera Garrison, 23, a fourth-year sociology student at UF, was a guest speaker at the event. She said that while there is support available for individuals, many black women may not feel comfortable sharing their experiences and asking for help. Garrison hopes Reframe and Reclaim becomes a way for black women to find solace in seeking each other’s support and guidance.

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“I suppose [some] are not as comfortable asking for help, ”she said. “To feel as if they have to meet a certain expectation or have a certain style or a certain policy [belief] or a certain vocabulary in order to be accepted.

Garrison heard about the different services the CWC offers to black students, and she knew she wanted to help by bringing her own thoughts to Reframe and Reclaim.

“I just wanted to be involved, to be heard and to devote all I could to the program,” she said. “I have a lot to offer from experience. I just wanted to tell my story so that other people could relate to, or black women could relate to. ”

Garrison read his narrative piece “Unchained” which represents the art of being free from “past trauma”, “toxic exposure” and “mental bondage” and being able to move forward without these negative experiences defining who you are as a person.

“If you apply yourself and do things that you didn’t think you could do, it helps you realize how strong you are, and how really, really dedicated, determined and effective you are, under all the lies that you are. have. you always said it because of the things you were exposed to, ”she said. “Learning to be unleashed mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, and in all capacities of your life is my story, and I live in it today.”

Garrison drew inspiration from her experiences growing up and looking at black women around her. To her, it seemed like they were all contenting themselves with the bare minimum, which she believes can carry over into the lives of future generations.

“I never want this to be my story,” she said. “I hope to see beyond that. It is the art of the unleashed.

By the end of her story, she was hopeful that everyone involved in the creation of Reframe and Reclaim would walk away knowing that being speechless is never the answer.

“I want other women to take it and be worthy in everything they do, learn to walk straight and be steadfast in character, and just take who they are and apply it in the right places,” he said. she declared. “I really want to spread hope.”

Robinson hopes to extend the event beyond this year and hopes that audience members will pick up the intended messages from the speakers’ plays, whether it’s about change, engagement, or challenging their own mindset.

“I don’t know what everything can come out of this event, but I think that it can impact the speakers and give them more courage and allow them to seize the platform that has been entrusted to them.

Contact Bryce at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @brycebrownnn.

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