Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Organising Toolkit Part Trois: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Now, I am not a student at an HBCU, but I interviewed students who do attend HBCUs for this final installment of my campus organising toolkit. If you feel anything in this general guideline is lacking, please do not hesitate to add things in comments!

  1. Challenge the notions of what the ideal student is—At many HBCUs the administration has set forth the idea of the “ideal (enter name of college here) student". In order to allow students to find their distinct identities, allow your organisation and other organisers to challenge those ideals. To show that these students come in all shapes and colours and have a variety of interests and opinions.
  2. Educate students on issues of concern on your campus—Because many HBCUs have an activist past, some students may feel that being active (politically, socially, etc) on campus is not important because it has already been done. Encourage students to get involved through various ways on your campus. Find issues of important and help students understand why it is important to be active on campus for those issues; connect the issue to them, make it personal.
  3. Organise and collaborate with other student groups—HBCUs are predominantly filled with students of colour, so it may seem that collaboration is not a difficult feat. However, according to Patrice, a graduate of Spelman College and a campus organiser with the Feminist Majority Foundation, it can sometimes be very hard for student groups to collaborate with Caribbean students associations or LGBT groups on campus. To combat this it may prove effective for a campus organiser to host a Breaking Bread event (ref: organising on affluent/apathetic college campuses) between two seemingly different student groups so that they may understand one another’s struggles and plan events for future collaboration. Also, it may be effective for you, as an organiser, to attend some of the meetings and events of other student organisations to understand where bridges may be fostered and what the two groups can collaborate on together.
  4. Organise conversations concerning identity politics—At many HBCUs, homophobia appears to be a problem, like on a lot of college campuses. Host events and discusses where community members can discuss identity politics (e.g. what femininity or masculinity looks like, or the fluidity of sexuality, or the intersections of race, gender and sexuality). These discussions may also help to foster connections between *different* student groups (i.e. Carribean students, LGBTQ students, etc) to provide more opportunities for collaboration. Also, following this theme, it would prove useful to have many awareness and consciousness-raising events about the mission of your organisation and what you feel needs to be or could be improved on your respective campus.
  5. Find a strong feminist faculty on your campus—It is important to find supporters of your organising/organisation. Find those Professors (be they tenured or not) who will support your cause and will advocate for you on behalf of the administration. It is always important to know your allies and your stakeholders. Look at the courses a Professor is teaching, it is also as simple as just having a discussion with a Professor or staff member. Look to see what faculty or staff members are attending your events, discussions, what have you. Know your allies and keep them close!!!

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