Black Girl Dangerous comes to speak at Ursinus

Mia McKenzie, writer and creator of the website Black Girl Dangerous, to participate in Q&A

 

Sophie Worthington-Kirsch

soworthingtonkirsch@ursinus.edu

Mia McKenzie, the award-winning founder of the website Black Girl Dangerous, will be having a Q&A session on campus Wednesday, Sept. 14. McKenzie’s website, which boasts over five million readers, focuses on the struggle of trans and queer people of color. According to event organizer Jordan Ostrum, McKenzie is “the rock star of internet social understanding of nuanced structural issues.” Black Girl Dangerous reflects the pain of oppression and whitewashing experienced by trans and queer people of color according to its about page, stating there that “what started out as a scream of anguish has evolved into a multi-faceted forum for expression.”

McKenzie is originally from Philadelphia, but now lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She earned a writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Her first novel, “The Summer We Got Free,” earned a Lambda Literary Award, an award which focuses on the work of LGBTQ writers. In 2011, she started her blog, Black Girl Dangerous, which “hosts over two hundred queer and trans writers of color who discuss race and class and gender from intersectional yet understandable approaches,” according to Ostrum. Ostrum added that her blog is like “Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ plus Michelle Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow’ plus the Internet and dozens of different perspectives. . .Miss McKenzie discusses racism in the education system, media portrayals of black communities, intersections of being transgender and a person of color, Islamophobia, and so much more.”

Ostrum first heard about McKenzie on Facebook, and from there they and “a rather small group of dedicated people” worked hard to bring her to campus. As Miss McKenzie has spoken at Brown University, Harvard University, and Penn State, this was no easy task. Her renown has spread across the country, and multiple colleges use her website Black Girl Dangerous in their curriculums. Ostrum worked with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to bring her to campus.

There will be two student moderators at McKenzie’s Q&A session. “It was very important for Miss McKenzie to have two people of color moderating the discussion, and preferably two queer people of color,” said Angela Bey, one of the student moderators. They said that they were honored to be thought of, but that it also reminded them of “how important representation is”—one of the reasons that they are so excited for McKenzie to come to campus.

Bey has a particular interest in McKenzie’s talk as a queer female-bodied person of color and a vocal member of the LGBT community of color on campus. They said that they think “seeing an example of someone who is intersectional on all those identities speaking on topics that are personal to [us] and having a talk about it is enough to inspire people to be more comfortable in their own skin.” Bey added, “there’s a lot on this campus that is often overlooked in those three intersections of identity,” but they said they want this talk to inspire them to “keep up being true to myself and advocating for people who are like me.” Ostrum would agree—McKenzie’s platform is all about “amplifying the voices of people we don’t hear from, queer and trans people of color.”

However, this talk is not just for members of the Ursinus LGBT community, but will be deliberately accessible to everyone on campus. The talk will provide a time for white and cis people to listen to a vocal member of the queer black community and hopefully will allow them to begin to understand how her life is affected by those aspects of her identity.

Bey hopes that fellow students begin to understand that “not every experience is the same, not every person is the same,” and that McKenzie has had a different experience than most people on campus. They hope the talk will serve as a reminder that “there’s no one black person, no one black queer person, and certainly no one black queer-female bodied person.” Bey hopes that the Q&A will provide a place for everyone on campus to “ask thoughtful questions and to be open-minded about the answers.”

Ostrum agrees, saying that “what we’re really hoping for is for her event to be a catalyst for people to start listening more to the voices of women of color and LGBT people of color. Even if you think you might disagree with her, there’s still a valuable perspective in what she’s saying that will be lost to you if you don’t bother to listen.”

Bey confirmed this, adding that the discourse should not end when McKenzie leaves, but that students should “listen to what their friends have to say, have discussion.”

McKenzie’s book, “Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender”, will be available for purchase at the event.

 

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