Letter From the Editor: On Celebrating Blackness

Olivia Silvey ’25

Editor-in-Chief

Happy Black History Month! We at the Tripod are continuing the tradition of our special February BHM edition. In the following pages you will read about the new Women of Color Coalition, a Black-owned bookstore, art history, a student band, the Civil Rights Movement, two outstanding basketball players and much more.

While it seems like a no- brainer to highlight Trinity’s Black community, I’d also like to spend a few words on both the importance and shortcomings of a Black History Month special edition. As a white girl, I will mostly depend on what I have been taught, what I’ve read and the ideas of non-white people that came before me, all of whom we should be reading even when February ends.

That is the catch-22 of Black History Month, as I’ve heard many people bring up during this time. What happens when February is over? Last year, the Tripod Instagram had a few comments calling on us to lift up Black voices all year round. That comment was right, of course, and reminds us of the fine line we walk this month. I say “we” referring to the Tripod, a mostly-white student organization on a mostly-white campus, but this “we” also includes Trinity, all institutions of higher education and basically every group that has ever participated in Black History Month.

Yes, we should take this month to put extra energy into celebrating Blackness. Here is our special edition. Also yes, we should be celebrating Blackness all year round. This semester, the Tripod is implementing more inclusive coverage tactics to talk to as many students, including students of color, as possible. What I see less of, though, is a questioning of how we celebrate Blackness. Let’s say, every edition of the Tripod for an entire year solely focused on Black people, places and happenings. This would solve the issue of Black History being limited to one month – but would that still be enough? What does enough even mean?

I argue that it wouldn’t be enough, and that we have a much larger duty to the Black community than publishing a few more pieces on them each year. (Although the more I reread this editorial, the more I like that year- round idea.) To begin to answer what is “enough,” I turn to Black feminist writer, poet, professor and activist Audre Lorde’s phrasing of “dismantling the master’s house,” or, eliminating the suffocating racial bounds of society (to put it lightly).

Celebrating Blackness is inherently political and revolutionary. I know some of you might roll your eyes and think, oh not this again. (Check yourself.) I understand, though, wondering what that means; I remember being a fresh little first-year staring at my sociology professors with confusion after that phrase was uttered.

To my knowledge, the way we live our lives — which is how we uphold society as we know it — automatically means that embracing and understanding Blackness is a radical act. It takes effort, consciousness, action (while we are taught from birth how to understand “whiteness”). But what does this actually look like on the ground? Luckily, we have some answers for you: turn to page 8 to read two first-years discuss their experience of being Black students at Trinity, page 9 to read about the Trinity Black student artist experience or pages 1-3 to read about being a woman of color at Trinity. We’ve got you covered.

But now, let’s turn back to Lorde. She writes this piece in the context of attending an academic conference that lacked “significant input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians,” the people on the margins of society. She says:

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

If you’re confused, I will first encourage you to take a sociological theory class (as a soc major, I have to). Second, I will never be able to explain Lorde’s words as well as she does, but I’ll try to put them in the context of this editorial.

The Black History Month edition that we, the Tripod , are presenting to you, has immense community value. But using the Tripod as a vehicle of change – of dismantling – is never fully possible, because newspapers are inherently a “master’s tool.” This is where journalism gets dangerous – we can easily lull ourselves into a deceptive slumber, writing a few articles for Black History Month and thinking we’ve done our work for the day. Newspapers are incredibly limited in the ways we can express ideas, especially ideas deemed unacceptable by people in control (the administration, the Trustees, the U.S. government, billionaires). There are times when we can break the mold, yes; but this Black History Month edition is absolutely not the only work we can and should do.

I want Lorde to make you critically think about how you move about in the world. If you see yourself as a changemaker (which all of you should), now is the time to take the next step and ask yourself, with what tools am I making change? More importantly – and I’ve said this before – with what tools are WE, as an interconnected community, making change? How are we embracing, celebrating and understanding Blackness?

-OPS

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