As Michigan in Color returns to campus, we thought it would be a great time to reflect on why MiC has been and continues to be a transformative space of healing, growth and exploration for people of color. With countless tragedies, acts of violence and police brutality, as we look to each other in these times of pain and sorrow, as we struggle to make meaning for ourselves, we lean on the power of unity and we give ourselves and our communities space: space to grieve, space to process, to love, to be imperfect. Our stories don’t always have endings, our narratives aren’t linear, we’re sometimes cyclical, sometimes messy, but always our own. We wanted to introduce ourselves, faces new and old with the stage always set and the MiC still live. Michigan in Color is growing, the voices audible, our words visible.
~~Senior Editor Alyssa Brandon~~
“Dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enameled with grace, toasted with beauty. My Lord, she’s a Black woman.”
You may remember seeing this quote from Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan in a piece I wrote last semester about my identity as a Black woman. In that piece, I am confident, I am poised and I am proud of who I am. But, it wasn’t always this way. I used to struggle to find things I liked about myself, and viewed my Blackness as a dark shadow that covered who I really am.
But today, I know my identity as Black woman makes being me so much better. I’ve come to embrace who I am and all the other things I love to do, like traveling. This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan. It was such an incredible experience; I even went spelunking 50 feet underneath Mt. Fuji. Being immersed in a foreign culture, pushing myself to reach new heights and taking risks helped me finally break out of the shell I used to hide in for so many years.
I’m so humbled and honored to be one of the senior editors for Michigan in Color this semester. I’ve joined Michigan in Color after reporting for the news section at the Daily for three years. As a reporter, I was deeply impacted by the significant underrepresentation of minority voices on campus and a disregard for all the wonderful stories students of color at the University of Michigan have to tell. I love Michigan in Color because it provides a space for minorities to feel empowered. My greatest hope is that my work with Michigan in Color allows me to help highlight amazing stories from students of color within our community.
But as much as I want to provide a platform for my fellow PoC, I also want to find and strengthen my own voice. I’ve had many struggles at the University that have shaped me into the woman I am today, many of which were a direct result of my identity as a Black woman. I used to be ashamed of being a Black woman and spent so much time wishing I was someone else. But today, I’m proud of who I am and all the adversity I’ve overcome.
Someone out there needs help. Somewhere, there’s a Black girl who despises her kinky hair. Somewhere, there’s someone who looks in the mirror and wishes they were someone else, just like I did. I believe my testimony and experiences can be used as medicine for others who are facing similar struggles.
Expressing myself, discussing my struggles and telling my story has been hard, but I hope writing for MiC helps me find my voice and gives me the courage to finally talk about my journey with others.
Cheers to a new start and to all the incredible stories I hope to tell and hear.
~~Senior Editor Ashley Tjhung~~
Hi, my name is Ashley and I’m a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. On campus, I am involved in a number of social justice groups including the Michigan Community Scholars Program, the Program on Intergroup Relations and the Detroit Partnership. As a part of these organizations, I became frustrated with the lack of resources for students of color to voice their experiences, especially in the face of systemic discrimination. Joining MiC was my way to give back to communities of color at the University of Michigan, while also expanding my reflections on how my social identities impact my outlook on life.
As an Asian woman, my relationship with my racial identity has been somewhat complicated. For most of my life, I viewed race in the black-white binary. I struggled to understand if I was indeed a privileged member of the “Model Minority” or another recipient of oppression among communities of color. While microaggressions and discrimination were, and still are, daily rituals, I was afraid to rock the boat among my predominately white school and circle of friends. Before, I was afraid to explore my racial identity for fear of the cognitive dissonance which would arise from questioning the system I lived my entire life in. Since coming to the University, however, the unease has begun to fade. I now identify as a proud person of color and being a part of the MiC community is a big reason why.
Ideally, I believe MiC can become the main outlet for students of color to read and express their frustrations, experiences, culture and pride, while not being afraid to post “controversial” content. MiC is a place both students and student organizations can use to share their stories with the student body, with the goal to spark conversation and dialogue around campus. Here, people of color can find others living similar experiences to their own, and in the process find clarity to their own questions on their identity and voice at this University, and raise their MiC.
MiC isn’t just a section of a newspaper or another page to read. It is a living document of the struggles and triumphs people of color experience throughout campus and life. We are a community of strong and inspirational students, faculty and alumni who support and affirm each other through our shared experiences.
Be ready to raise your voice.
Be ready to raise your MiC.
~~Senior Editor Sabrina Bilimoria~~
I’m a workaholic. I love to plan out my days to maximize productivity — no 15 minutes can go unused. People who have worked with me before know me for wanting to streamline everything so that I can pack more activities into each busy day. But between classes, meetings, readings, essays and exams, it’s often hard to both find peace of mind on campus while still being productive. Michigan in Color has been just that — the work we do is cathartic more than stressful.
As a minority, I’ve spent a lot of my life looking for the right group — I’m a feminist, but not a white woman; Pakistani, but not Muslim; Parsi, but not Indian; American, but first generation. The contradictions never end. Navigating other people’s confusion about my identity — after all the “come to church with me” and “are you sure you’re Pakistani?” — ultimately left me with a stronger sense of self. It’s not that I don’t fit anywhere, but rather that I fit into a number of different spaces. It taught me that identity is more than the logistics — where you’re from, what religion you follow — and more than what others (read: majority) ascribe to you, but rather being able to self-identify.
I currently serve as co-director of the South Asian Awareness Network, a South Asian social justice student organization. SAAN has been an outlet for South Asian American solidarity and a place to understand my role in social change. My experience with SAAN ultimately led me to MiC as a space to engage with other communities of color. Michigan in Color has been the space to not only explore these many identities, but to be surrounded by a group of people who share the identity of being a frustrated person of color with too many experiences and feelings to unpack alone. For the first time, I’ve found a group of people who share my worldly angst.
MiC makes the long hours worth it.
~~Senior Editor Christian Paneda~~
Before college, back when I thought those times would be the most stressful part of my life, I would always call my friend who lived too far away and tell her that I needed to “find myself.” Her response would always be the same “Now what does that even mean?” and my response would be the same “Well, um, I mean, I don’t know,” which I thought beautifully articulated the fact that I was completely lost on who I was as a person.
Narratives of Asian Americans in general, ran thin in the area I grew up in. I was only offered the stereotypes of what others told me; I was to accept them as truths, and I did. After all, my parents are super strict and my food is really weird, right? To accept these stereotypes was to ensure a (false) sense of safety and avoid ridicule in my mind. In a sense, I lost my voice. In hindsight, maybe that is why I would always complain about finding myself in one way. I didn’t know what it meant to celebrate myself as a person of color, and I didn’t want to fully admit my shame as one too.
But as time passed, my submission was more harmful than helpful. Little by little, I stood up to peers, teachers and strangers who wanted to dictate how I should think with no idea of the experiences of being marginalized because it definitely was way more than about getting my feelings hurt. I researched all I could to learn more about my cultural heritage as an antidote for poisonous stereotypes. Holding my ground felt much better than being metaphorically pinned down.
In college, in the midst of highly demanding academics, I was drawn to Michigan in Color because of how brave, honest and unapologetic each story every contributor had to offer as people of color. I loved, and still love, the freedom of allowing expression in all forms outside of written pieces like audio and visual art. I want to raise minority voices up, because I know how it is to be torn down.
To make others heard, not silenced
To make others strong, not shameful
To make others find themselves, like MiC has made me is why I chose my role.
~~Managing Editor Toni Wang~~
I have a terrible memory. I often find it difficult to recall events that happened to me throughout a day, let alone over the course of a month or a year. This has been especially disheartening for me now that I’m a senior in college. These past two weeks I have found myself scribbling down every pleasant moment I experience with immense detail, a desperate attempt at documenting a year that I know will pass by all too quickly and one that I hope I can hold onto despite my record of forgetting.
I feel as though some of the challenges I have with remembering come from the fact that I have changed immensely over the past three years and continue to change almost every minute. I have a sense of dissociation with who I feel I am in this moment and who I used to be, even yesterday. At the same time, the moments I can remember are the ones that truly reflect this ever evolving self.
One of my clearest memories of freshman year is when I first stumbled across a Michigan in Color article. I remember sitting at my dorm room desk and reading through then-editor Carlina Duan’s piece, “Our sacrifice, our shame” (one of the most read articles ever published by the Daily). I was in awe of Carlina and her writing. She was able to articulate her experiences as a second-generation Chinese American woman in a way that I never could, and in reading her story I could better understand my own. Though I hadn’t written the piece, I felt that I had been given a voice.
The feeling I had after reading Carlina’s article for the first time is something that will never escape my memory. Since then I have read almost every article published by MiC and each one has resonated with me in one way or another. They have brought me closer to myself and helped me navigate my experiences on this campus. They have bonded me with communities of color at the University of Michigan and served as a constant reminder of our strength and resilience. In sum, MiC has played a transformative and integral role during my time here, which is why I wanted to become involved. I hope to continue the wonderful work that MiC has been doing — to amplify the voices and stories of people of color at Michigan, to make bold declarations of our existence and thriving here — so that even when my memories of this year become blurred and I forget the details of my last fleeting days in college, I know I will always remember the feeling of finally being heard and understood.
~~Managing Editor Demario Longmire~~
Not limited to the biological anatomy in the formal sense, our voices are the means through which we communicate our perspectives, our experiences, our beliefs. Our voices give weight to our thoughts, validity to our experiences and translate the intangibility of the complexity of the human experiences into narrative, reflection and wisdom. Our voices are our essence.
What happens when you’re told you don’t have a voice? That your voice isn’t important? It doesn’t have the right timbre? It sounds “funny?” Not “smart enough?”
I didn’t think my voice had any power. When it came to talking about race, I doubted myself. There was always someone more eloquent, more creative, more interesting than I was. My voice wasn’t important. My story wasn’t inspirational, it was shameful. Coming from a poor Black family where struggle was normalized, I felt like more of a trope, a number, a stereotype than an actual person with experiences. When I tried to speak, it sounded robotic and foreign; I felt phony and restrained in the way I spoke about myself. I kept my past and home life a secret. People didn’t know about me because I didn’t want to know myself.
Performance freed me of these insecurities and doubts. When I was on stage, I felt strong and sure. I could easily connect to a character. A person whose emotions and experiences were different than my own, even as I continued to disconnect myself from my own emotions and experience. Instead of liberation, performance, for me, was an escape. A survival tactic. Life at the University of Michigan as a person of color, especially in conversations about race, sometimes felt more like a like an act than performing did.
As a new student to the University, I joined the Educational Theatre Company, a theater troupe on campus that focused on peer education and explored topics of social justice and campus climate through performance. Through my work with ETC, the boundaries that society, structurally and I, personally, had placed on the way I allowed myself to think about my story started to blur. I realized my story and experiences were important. For the first time, my voice was developing and I could recognize it. It sounded real. Through performance, I found community and engaged in conversation with others who were feeling and experiencing similar and different things from myself. These conversations took place in sketches, monologues and theater sculptures. Performance was instrumental in my self-discovery and self-development. Theater is a tool to build and explore community. For me, it is both a part of my activism and my self-care. It has helped me find a voice. It helped to give me the courage to start to tell my story and share myself with my community, especially with other people of color. It led me to see the importance of spaces on campus for students of color to connect and explore, criticize and create, and share and grow together.
I hope to bring performance and other nontraditional mediums of expression to Michigan in Color. Students of color, despite the resounding noise of doubt, erasure and minimization of your experiences present here on campus, know that you have a voice. Think of Michigan in Color as a space for you to start or continue to find it. I leave you all with this:
Voices of color
loud and radiant amidst
a sea of white noise.
It’s easy to miss the rainbow
when you’re not looking for it.