A New Year, An Open MiC: Letter from the Editors

Illustration by Teresa Mathew
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By Teresa Mathew, Michigan in Color Editor
and Carlina Duan, Michigan in Color Editor
and Nour Soubani, Michigan in Color Editor
and Ryan Moody, Michigan in Color Editor
Published September 3, 2014

Welcome back to Michigan in Color, a space for People of Color (PoCs) on the University of Michigan campus to facilitate change by sharing their stories and voices.

Michigan in Color (MiC) was launched on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 20, 2014, by three women of color — Rima Fadlallah, Jerusaliem Gebreziabher and Kayla Upadhayaya, with two initial goals: to help individuals and groups see beyond their own experiences, and to feel and embrace power from other communities of color across the University of Michigan campus.

Since its inception, MiC has had a powerful, widespread impact. People who had never picked up The Michigan Daily before were reading it consistently. Professors were selecting MiC pieces to initiate discussions in class. MiC writers started receiving responses from readers from across the country and the world that reflected on their own issues as PoCs. For the past nine months, MiC has radically raised discussions and awareness about issues that are important to PoCs. People listened. They still are.

But MiC isn’t just about getting people to take notice; we address an unmet need. A need for all students to be valued, affirmed and heard. With every publication, MiC proves that even though our stories as people of color deviate from mainstream narratives, our stories are worthy of words, ink, time and space. In fact, our stories are oftentimes made valuable because they stray from the dominant norm.

MiC is a crucial space on this campus — a space for PoCs to celebrate what is rarely celebrated and to take comfort in what we often feel pressure to defend. It is a space where PoCs do not have to strip or censor our stories of the ache, shame, or pain we carry before sharing them with the world. Our contributors aren’t required to dissect their narratives into “logical” bite-sized pieces to prepare them for public consumption. As The Michigan Daily’s first section where the creators, editors, and publishers are exclusively People of Color, we aren’t here to be politically correct. This is our truth, and these are our stories.

MiC is not here to be shiny, or fierce, or revolutionary. It is here to tell honest stories that shovel beneath the heart. And by doing so, Michigan in Color has allowed us to jump through windows of curiosity, rage, wonder. It becomes fierce and revolutionary because it is honest storytelling; it is honest listening that pushes, challenges, questions, affirms — and that combination unlatches all the windows.

MiC offers storytelling that does not claim to be anything other than narratives from the mouth, the brain, the heart. For us, the best part about storytelling is that while you will never have the exact same experience as someone else, you have the power to weave together something from your own world that connects and supports and builds upon your own experience. We hope MiC will foster a space of connection for our readers, as well as a place of empathy, listening and generosity.

Last year MiC defined itself and carved its space on campus. This year, we will take a new step. Stories can be told with words — but they can also be told with art, music, pictures, and so many more mediums. We want to create new multimedia avenues for our voices to speak and to be heard. Throughout the year, we will be introducing new visual and artistic elements to Michigan in Color with platforms for cartoons, illustrations, poetry and song. We want MiC to be more than a newspaper column; we want it to become a dynamic community — a support network for communities of color on campus, one that provides opportunities for individual and collective growth through the sharing of our stories, one that pushes us beyond the space to listen, challenge, empathize and grow.

We want all our readers to see that there is no one way to be any color, any ethnicity, any identity. MiC is a space for stories to be told. We do not speak for all — we speak for ourselves, and these narratives have a right to be heard. Let us tell them proudly.

We are the new Michigan in Color editors, and these are our stories:

I’m Carlina Duan, and I’m here because I want to help build an accessible, powerful space on campus that uses narrative to pummel past doors. As a first-generation Chinese American, I’m often stuck switching between codes of “American” versus “Chinese,” navigating feelings of strangeness and smallness, while simultaneously hatching wonder and joy. For me, my identity as a Chinese American woman is as stunning as it is confusing. As a student on this campus, I want to talk about the confusion. I want to talk about what gets skimmed over or pressed into flatter shapes. For me, Michigan in Color is urgent. It has the ability to amplify honest conversations surrounding issues of race, ethnicity, and personhood. It has the power to dimensionalize and heal, teaching us all how to stretch — and, ultimately, how to grow.

I’m Ryan Moody, and I’m here because I am tired of me and my friends being silenced and dismissed as oversensitive. For me, the desire to be understood, disprove negative stereotypes, and avoid offending others prevents my speaking candidly outside of the few spaces created by and for people of color. Instead, I am often telling a white-washed version of my truths. Though each person has unique life experiences, I think that we, as PoCs, are all linked by common pressures that restrict the ways in which we express ourselves. Michigan in Color is working to repair that dynamic. I’m excited to help build and maintain one of the few spaces on campus where I have seen people of color be and thrive unfiltered.

I’m Teresa Mathew, and I’m here because I want all people of all colors and heritages to know that they deserve to forge their own identities and tell their own stories. I’m tired of people thinking that because they can look at me and classify me as Indian they can ascribe everything they think that identity means (a love of Bollywood, elaborate weddings, Hinduism) to me. Guys, literally none of those things are true. For me, Michigan in Color is a furnace. We will ignite fires and blaze our truth, bringing light and warmth to those who have been left out in the dark.

I'm Nour Soubani, and I'm here because I've learned that not telling our own stories erases us. As a Palestinian American, my identity was one that people didn't even recognize — “Palestine? What’s that?” — and so it became something I felt I had to hide, something I couldn't even understand for myself, let alone explain to someone else. Only when I was surrounded by people who wanted to talk about and listen to Palestinians did I have a chance to truly embrace who I was and where I came from, and that has given me a well of inspiration and courage on which I draw often. For me, MiC is necessary; it is critical for our survival. I'm a MiC editor because I believe in the transformative power our stories have to heal us and those who listen to us. We need to talk about who we are and what our identities mean, to find strength and passion in our struggles and resistance and bravery. By speaking our truths uninterrupted and unapologetically, we can come to know ourselves, our sorrows and sadness, our triumphs and our pain — and love and appreciate all of it.

So for all of you PoCs who see this as something you want to be a part of, now is your time. This can be your space, if you want to make it so. If you would like to join the Michigan in Color team as a regular contributor, please contact us at michiganincolor@umich.edu to request an application. Similarly, if you’re interested in contributing to the space, but not as a regular contributor, feel free to e-mail us to request more information. We welcome your voice. We hope you’ll continue to read, reflect, and join our MiC community.

This is an active space, so get ready, University of Michigan. We are passing the MiC.