Black Student Union Brings Together Women for Lively Discussion
From left: Celeste Cummings, Hannah Macon, Kylie Huck, Tychirra Moreno, and Dean of Student Life Dr. Kasi Lacey. Photo by Kirsten Carney.
Hannah Macon ’19 says that growing up in the inner city of St. Louis, MO, she never felt different from her family, friends, and neighbors. Television shows, however, eventually revealed negative stereotypes of black women that surprised her. Macon laughs and says, “And then I got here [Westminster], and I realized, yeah — I’m black.”
Macon was one of five students and staff members who shared their experiences during “Black Women: A Panel Discussion” at noon on Feb. 20 in Hunter Activity Center. A collaboration of the Black Student Union and the Center for Faith and Service, the discussion was part of the Office of Intercultural Engagement’s Diversity Dialogues series and a celebration of Black History Month.
Panel members included Dean of Student Life Dr. Kasi Lacey, who discussed her experiences growing up in a biracial family with a black father and a white mother. Lacey says she didn’t feel she fit in with one particular group of kids, but today her background helps in her various roles at Westminster. “I know I’ve been afforded some white privilege,” Lacey explains. “My experience has helped shape how I work with students on a diverse campus.”
Panel members answered a variety of discussion questions posed by moderators Chelsea Sharp ’19 and Kiva Nice-Webb, Chaplain and Director of the Center for Faith and Service. Questions covered during the one-hour presentation to about 30 students, faculty, and staff included the challenges black women face on and off campus, how varying skin tones influence others’ perceptions of them, and a topic called “hair journeys,” which was met with laughter and comments about the elaborate processes involved in styling black hair.
“My mom was white and didn’t know how to do my hair,” Kyle Huck ’16 says, explaining how hair-straightening sessions burned her scalp and resulted in scabs behind her ears. The Event and Program Coordinator for Athletics adds, “I wanted my hair to be straight and look like my friends at school.”
Panel member Tychirra Moreno ’19 briefly became emotional discussing academics. The St. Louis resident says she always felt she needed to be perfect in class. Moreno says, “I thought the professors would judge me unless I got an ‘A’ or less than 100 percent.” Moreno helped compose the questions for the panel as a result of surveys, focus groups, and other data collected on campus through a capstone project for her psychology degree.
The discussion allowed for responses from the audience and ended with the question, “What do you love about being black?” Celeste Cummings ’19 of Florissant, MO, quickly said, “It’s fun to be black, in general. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.”
Westminster’s Black Student Union is open to people of all races to help encourage diversity and tolerance on campus. For more information on the Black Student Union, please contact Nice-Webb at the Center for Faith and Service at 573-592-5262 or Kiva.Nice-Webb@westminster-mo.edu.