By Sanmai Gbandi
African-American women, students and faculty, came together to discuss a myriad of topics and promote a sense of community.
The discussion, entitled My Sister Myself was led on Tuesday night in the Student Union Building Baines room.
My Sister MySelf is an event that was started last year by Kim Marmon, a resource specialist for the department of multicultural affairs.
She started the group, which meets once at the end of every month, in order to give female African-American students a place to fellowship and speak their minds.
She runs the group with four other faculty leaders including Director of Wellness Lori Genous, Director for Civic Engagement and Educational Development Ramona Curtis and Staff Psychologist, Dr. Monique Marsh.
The students who attend the meeting are the ones who set the tone for the discussion.
This time around it was focused on African-American women, but that does mean the discussion could not be completely different on another day
Marmon encourages all types of women to attend.
She has said before that “all women are welcome to come and share their experiences”
The group is also another way for young students to gain an older perspective from women who have more experience in life and are willing to share the lessons they have learned.
“We’ve all been where you will soon be, and where you’re trying to go,” Marmon said.
The discussions, although facilitated by the faculty members, are laid-back and open for any topic.
This time the discussion moved between different topics, all of which pertained to the experience of being like an African-American woman at a predominantly white university.
Things like stereotypes about black women, the difficulty of dating in and outside of the African-American race, and white privilege were discussed.
Another issue that was mentioned was this notion of needing to be married by the time graduation rolls around.
Ring by spring is a common thing to hear around campus, and that was discussed in the context of African-American women.
According to the National Survey of Family Growth in 2012, 26 percent of black women were married compared to 51 percent of white women. Also, black women tend to get married later on in life compared to white women.
Some of the reasons posited by the group for this gap ARE the oftentimes negative portrayal of black women in the media and preconceived notions about what an African-American woman should be like.
Another issue discussed was the higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS among African-American women than any other race.
According to the Women’s Health website, a lot of factors contribute to this. African-American women are more likely to have sex within their race compared to other groups which increases the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease with each sexual encounter. Also, one in four African-American women live in poverty, which is strongly linked to HIV risk.
They women in the room also talked about the general hardships of being an African-American student at a predominantly white college and how that can start to take an effect.
The students in attendance talked about having to deal with other students asking them questions about stereotypically black things like how to cook fried chicken.
The faculty members encouraged the other students to educate others on the diversity of African-American women and the culture in general.
A topic also breached was the lack of positive roles models young black girls have to look up to.
Ramona Curtis talked about the need for educated young black women, like those in attendance, to reach back into the community and give the young girls in their lives something they may have never had: hope for a better future and someone who looks like them to look up to.
“Little girls need to see you.” Curtis said, “They need to see that they can be you.”
Houston general studies major Lanie Frank agreed with Curtis about the importance of being a role model for young girls in order to make them believe that they, too, can succeed.
“They need to see us doing well in these positions.” Frank said, “It’s really important.”
Overall, although the discussion covered a range of topics, the overarching theme was about creating a sense of community and open discussion among African-American women.