Last week marked Yale University's 23rd annual Black Solidarity Conference. The theme of the event was “Deconstructing Sex, Sexuality, And Gender In The Black Community.”
The event focused greatly on social justice issues and incorporated a myriad of other progressive-related talks such as “How Good is Sex?”, “Queerness in the Age of Black Lives Matter,” and “The Black Gay Body In Pop Culture.”
The conference website states: “This year’s theme calls participants to unpack the sexual and gendered practices and ideas that we’ve inherited, as well as discuss the ways our community intentionally disrupts them. The 2018 conference will truly run the gamut: from topics such as Black hyper masculinity, to the overt sexualization of Black bodies, to giving voice and visualization to Black queer and trans experiences. By entering this conference with an open spirit of exchange, we will challenge traditional notions of sex(uality) and gender while making space to explore our intersectional identities.”
Being the largest conference at the Ivy League institution annually run by students, the event attracted an overwhelming number of students. This year’s keynote was transgender activist Janet Mock, who is credited with co-creating the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.
While a conference on black solidarity is admirable, Yale — originally founded as a Christian college — has truly left its founding principles in the dust. A conference which could truly work to better race relations and empower black students instead has deteriorated into a conference on obscure sex.
Some of the conference's attendees didn't seem to mind.
“It was absolutely amazing just to be in a space in a [predominantly white institution] with so many black people and to talk about black solidarity and black love in different forms,” Tufts University sophomore Seble Yigletu told the Yale Daily News.
Other individuals attending the conference carried more acrimonious perspectives regarding race relations and social issues, utilizing the event as a catalyst to lament their deeply held concerns.
Social justice journalist Saki Benibo demanded at the conference that individuals, “shut up and listen to black women.” Following this peculiar instruction, Benibo explained that shutting up “will teach you how to be a better person, a better activist, a better advocate.”
“This theme is something that is not always discussed within our community,” Black Solidarity Conference executive board member Mariko Rooks stated. “People were forced to challenge prejudices both within the community and external prejudices.”
The event, sponsored by Google and other corporations, was attended by more than 750 students from across the country.
Isaiah Denby is a college freshman from Tampa Bay, Fla., studying economics and political science.