MD

Opinion

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advertise with us »

Passing the MiC: A final letter from your founding editors

Courtesy of MiC Editorial Team

By Rima Fadlallah, Michigan in Color Editor
and Jerusaliem Gebreziabher, Michigan in Color Editor
and Kayla Upadhyaya, Michigan in Color Editor
Published May 27, 2014

To the family and loyal friends of the Michigan in Color section:

Photo by Mike Frieseman, courtesy of Ciarra Ross
Courtesy of Alex Ngo
Courtesy of Zeinab Khalil

More like this

Thank you for being among the first to contribute to or interact with our brand new section. Whether you are an editor, a contributor or an avid reader, we are humbled by your presence and support.

Since MiC’s inception only a few months ago, we have had the pleasure of publishing some of the most moving, overwhelmingly raw and downright brilliant pieces to ever be featured in The Michigan Daily. The work in this space is symbolic of the greater social justice issues people of color endure on campus and beyond; we know that our voices’ echoes will stand the test of time. With that said, as your founding editors, we feel an overwhelming sense of urgency around documenting our history and sharing with you the vision, ideas and story that eventually resulted in this Michigan in Color column.

Michigan in Color was founded on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in 2014 by three women of color: Rima Fadlallah, Jerusaliem Gebreziabher and Kayla Upadhayaya. Four months later, we comprise 15 percent of all Daily web traffic.

First and foremost, our vision behind Michigan in Color is to provide a platform for people of color at or affiliated with the University to make their voices heard and tell their own stories. Many may try to claim that the space emerged in light of the national attention the University was getting due to campaigns such as #BBUM, #UMDivest and the Speak Out that addressed the hostile racial climate and other social injustices that plague our communities, but while the timing of our inception was certainly symbolic, we resist such claims. These claims assume that this space is a reaction, founded to educate and to solve problems that we people of color did not create. We sought to create a space that is hyperconscious of distinct struggles and differences among communities of color, working closely with those communities but never intending to co-opt or generalize their respective movements. Individual contributors have and may continue to publish posts reacting to current events on campus and beyond, but Michigan in Color as a column is not a reactionary space; it is revolutionary.

Michigan in Color was created for and by people of color. We hope that our white readers engage with and learn from our stories and experiences, however, MiC’s priority is to provide a platform by which we can unapologetically speak our souls, sing our heartache, celebrate our laughter, use our words to heal, take risks and ask questions that don’t necessarily have answers. As long as our contributions do not perpetuate oppressive systems or marginalize other voices in our space, this column is here to provide the contributor with a cathartic experience, regardless of how their audience interacts with their work.

Future editors and advocates of this initiative must recognize and appreciate the importance of this space as one created solely for and by people of color, always prioritizing the raw expression of our stories over the reaction of our audience. We must always remember that as students of color attending a predominantly white institution, our narratives are overshadowed and therefore silenced by the mainstream — a space created with the purpose of amplifying our voices isn’t a simple desire for exclusivity, it is a form of resistance to the erasure of our existence and humanity.

For these reasons, Michigan in Color should remain a space that interacts very intimately with the individual utilizing it; in the coming years, we can only hope that the section continues to develop to better suit the needs of those students of color using it. We hope that it continues to engender much needed change on this campus as one of the only public forums at this institution where we can simply be. We expect that the space is not one that is structurally restrictive like many other columns, but is instead one that continuously evolves as we do, and encourages and enables art, creativity and authenticity in all viable forms.

Most importantly, Michigan in Color is about respect: respect for the space, respect for the people in the space, respect for personal narrative and respect for the complexity that we all are. With that said, we have established our very own “MiC Checks” inspired by the Unity Statements from the Michigan Women of Color Collective (M-WoCC) and modified to specifically address the space in which we are operating and created to sustain Michigan in Color’s mission statement: Michigan in Color is a designated space for and by people of color at the University of Michigan, where they are encouraged to voice their opinions and reconcile their perspectives and lived experiences that may be overshadowed by dominant narratives on campus.

We want the purposes of our space to be as transparent as possible, so we will share with you the MiC Checks that will help sustain Michigan in Color for the generations to come.

MiC Checks (inspired by Michigan Women of Color Collective’s Unity Statements):

1. Michigan in Color is a safe space reserved solely for and by people of color. In order for MiC to remain safe for its contributors, it must remain a space for and by people of color. Only those who identify as people of color may edit the work in the space or contribute to Michigan in Color in any way. The only people exempt from this rule are the editor in chief and the CopyDesk at the Michigan Daily, who can only suggest edits to MiC editors. MiC editors reserve the right to make all final decisions regarding Michigan in Color content.

2. Submissions that directly marginalize the voices of others in this space shall not be published. Editors have full autonomy to determine which articles they will publish. Even within the narratives of people of color, there are some voices that have the power to directly marginalize other voices in the space. If the editors feel that any post perpetuates and reinforces the oppression and silencing of already marginalized voices, they will not publish it.

3. Michigan in Color is a brave space. This statement must assume statements #1 and #2 before it can be realized. MiC seeks to move beyond a “safe space”; this column is a space that encourages and invites all of its membership to be brave and claim authorial right to their own narratives — whatever they may be. In this space, we invite our contributors to be vulnerable, to shed light on issues that are controversial, to be authentic even in the face of overwhelming self-doubt, and to hold others accountable to do the same. We encourage those utilizing our space to challenge others within and outside of the space to think critically and entertain other perspectives.

4. Michigan in Color encourages creative expression in all its viable forms. We do not want this column to be restrictive or constraining like most of the spaces in which we operate as people of color. Instead, we want MiC to be enabling, which is why editors are open to any suggestions for creative expression so long as it does not violate Daily policy.

5. Only speak to your own identities and experiences. Do not write on behalf of other individuals or communities. MiC is a space whereby marginalized voices can make their stories heard. With that said, MiC is not a space whereby people of color write about the issues of communities to which they do not belong. Doing so would certainly violate MiC Check #3.

6. Michigan in Color is not a space for confessions or guilt. MiC drops will not center feelings of guilt on behalf of a more privileged author for being directly complicit in any form of oppression, and MiC shall not serve as a space for people of color to confess ways that they have been racist, classist, sexist or have worked to directly perpetuate any other system of oppression. Doing so violates MiC Checks #1 and #2.

7. Michigan in Color assumes an introspective and socially responsible author. MiC contributors should be introspective, recognizing their privilege(s) and the way their submission(s) will affect the dynamics of this space. While MiC is a designated space for and by people of color, it certainly does not exist within a vacuum that is immune to the oppressive systems and identity politics of our campus and beyond. It is imperative that MiC’s editors are cognizant of this reality and extremely thoughtful and purposeful when developing this space, editing posts and interacting with others within the space.

8. Emotions are valid in our space. MiC is not a space that tolerates the policing of anyone’s emotions. So long as the contributions abide by the abovementioned MiC Checks, this space can be whatever the author needs it to be. Outside of the very minor (and flexible) Daily grammatical and structural policies, MiC drops do not need to follow any specific format or pattern. MiC Drops can come in all colors, shapes, sizes and effects. We welcome all of the individual (their tears, their smiles, their anger, their loud laughter, etc.).

And now, we would each like to take the time to offer personal remarks before we pass along the MiC for good.

Rima Fadlallah: So Kayla, Jerus and I have pretty much been done with this post for a month now. As was the case for 100 percent of my MiC posts during the winter semester, I prioritized many long hours (that arguably should have been spent on school-work) thinking about, writing for and helping develop this space, turning posts in for edits far before I submitted final papers — so serious. But now, as a graduate with far more time on my hands, I have found it difficult to craft my final post as MiC editor. Call me dramatic (I prefer emotional), but this space has meant everything to me over the past semester. It has provided me with a public outlet where I could be both fierce and vulnerable, where I could explore different parts of my identity, or express my pro-Palestinian views — something I have been terrified to do prior. When thinking about what to write earlier this week, I was afraid that I’d be centering myself when talking about a column that seeks to represent so much more than just Rima Fadlallah, but that’s just it. It is about Rima Fadlallah. We founded Michigan in Color so people of color could take control of their own personal narratives, where for once, through our stories, we could simply be individuals on a campus rife with stereotypes and generalizations imposed on us by others. While our movement may be plural, my story is singular. For those people of color who have found singularity in this space, I am confident that you will continue to benefit from MiC. However, as MiC’s biggest fan, I am also its toughest critic — we have ways to go before we can call this space socially responsible. On a campus (and in a world) that continues to suffocate many people of color, I hope that Michigan in Color will develop into an opportune oasis where all people of color can reflect on and replenish our souls. We have created a monster, yes, a monster, and I am so excited to watch it grow from afar.

Jerusaliem Gebreziabher: Where to even begin ... For so long on campus it felt that like the only places I could truly air out issues of race and oppression that were rooted in my lived experiences were in enclosed spaces. Although I felt the sting of microagressions everyday, or saw the tangible struggle of my family as East African immigrants, our hardships have never been easy for me to vocalize. The result? A harmful internalization that led to feelings of shame and a displacement in a country that did not treat us as kindly as we imagined. Much like my parents, I struggled silently. It wasn’t until college that I could trace the subtle lines of my self-hate back to institutional and societal ills that sometimes creep into communities of color. With this realization came healing and learning. One of the ways I practice self care is through the unpacking of other marginalized narratives. Through listening to the generous outpourings of other people of color I found how deeply privilege cuts. The profound beauty and strength created in spaces for and by people of color is a testament to the incredible journeys of each individual. The very existence of these spaces, like their members, is revolutionary. We are constantly told that our pain isn’t valid, that our victories aren’t worth celebrating, but spaces like this help us push back. Michigan in Color has been a space that pushed me, caused me to love more fiercely, and investigate more thoroughly, but also to be brave. It is a place that inspires and gives me hope; MiC is an avenue of expression that is welcoming.

Kayla Upadhyaya: I wish I could say that as we write this farewell post, Rima, Jerus, and I are sitting together in a bustling Espresso Royale, laughing and chatting as we try to process our thoughts and feelings into a coherent article. That was the setting when we collaborated on our very first MiC post, which introduced the space and complicated the term “people of color.” Now, we’re spread out. I'm, unsurprisingly, still in a bustling coffee shop, but it's one hundreds of miles away, in Nashville, Tenn., where I’ve stopped for a few days on the way to my next adventure in Los Angeles. I’m so far away from where Michigan in Color began, but I still feel so close to it, and not just because I’m simultaneously Facebook chatting with Jerusaliem and G-chatting with Rima. In my three years at the Daily, nothing made me prouder or more fulfilled than the work I did with Michigan in Color. This project — and all of the people involved in it — have become an indelible part of me. It was here in this space that I finally told stories that had previously been locked up deep inside of me. When reading MiC posts, I was inspired and moved by the raw stories and emotions of the beautiful people who write for us. When writing my own MiC post, I learned new things about myself, faced questions about my identities I hadn’t yet confronted, and redefined relationships in my life. I hope MiC continues to be a place where people of color can speak openly and without restriction. I hope our white readers understand that their role is never to critique or tell people of color how they should feel or act, but rather, to listen and grow. These first four months flew by, and I still can’t believe the reach we've had on campus and beyond. Carlina Duan almost broke the website with the amount of reads she got! NPR's Michele Norris gave us a shoutout! Northwestern's paper started their own MiC-inspired opinion section! These and other victories along the way have proven just how necessary and meaningful MiC is. People have told us, at times, that we are too political. Well, you’re damn right. Our mere existence is political. This was our pilot year, and it was an impressive one, but there’s much more work to be done. While I'm sad to leave, I know there are countless more stories to be told, and I can’t wait to see MiC spread its wings.

And from the three of us, we’d like to thank some of the individuals who helped make MiC possible. To Lexis Zeidan: Without you, we can honestly say this space would not be what it is today; you were both a silent soundboard and a critical comrade during a time when Michigan in Color was nothing but a passionate 30 second pitch riddled in self-doubt; we wouldn’t have been able to move forward without your confidence in our vision. Thank you for being brave enough to believe in this movement. To Zeinab Khalil, Rolly Abiola and Ciarra Ross: Thank you for continuing to — both indirectly and directly — help cultivate, develop, challenge and fight for our space. Thank you for being such inspirational symbols of courage and resilience, for being unapologetically you and for inspiring others in this space to follow-suit. For your authenticity, generosity and support, we will always be grateful.

To Andrew Weiner: Your leadership at the beginning of the project provided us with the internal support from the Daily we needed in order to transform from an idea into reality. Thank you for recognizing the urgency for a space like ours and for collaborating with us to ensure that MiC was more than just a conversation between strangers in the Daily’s basement.

To Peter Shahin: We can’t thank you enough for your patience and diligence in editing our articles and helping ensure that we maintain a safe and representative space. Thanks for responding to 2 a.m. emails (sorry) and, most importantly, for always having our backs when we needed your support. Your trust in us kept us going throughout the semester.

To all of our contributors: Thank you for trusting us with your hearts and stories. We know it is extremely difficult as people of color to share those parts of ourselves that many may never understand, and we applaud you for your courage. Your contributions have helped empower and enlighten those around you in unimaginable ways. Thank you for being patient with us as we set MiC’s precedences together and thank you for helping us set high standards for Michigan in Color’s future.

Last but most definitely not least, to the many followers, avid readers and silent supporters of MiC and this movement: We appreciate you; we appreciate your time, your patience, your interest and curiosity, your occasional texts, tweets, e-mails, Facebook messages, shares, likes and other tokens of support. Your gestures truly kept us going this semester. Thank you for being the ongoing momentum behind this movement.

Without further ado, we are humbled to pass the MiC to our four 2014-15 editors: Ryan Moody, Nour Soubani, Carlina Duan and Teresa Mathew. All four of you amazing women already have the traits, skills, character and vision that Michigan in Color needs to run smoothly and to operate more effectively and responsibly than it already has. We are lucky (and relieved) to be leaving this valuable space in hands that truly understand its fragility. We can’t wait to witness all of the great things that will come out of Michigan in Color under your leadership. You already know we’ll be reading!

Michigan in Color is the Daily’s opinion section designated as a space for and by students of color at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about MiC, e-mail michiganincolor@umich.edu.


|