It has certainly been a year about blackness*. Whether people are discussing the dehumanization of the black body in America or the rise of the Afro-Latino identity, it is safe to say that the world is paying more attention to people of color and the spaces we own. On the contrary, this year has also been a celebration of the black* women. Campaigns like #blackgirlsrocks, #myblackisbeautiful and #blackgirlmagic have catapulted the celebration of women of color, honoring our intelligence, our hair, our skin, our art, our politics and an abundance of other aspects of our identity, people and diaspora that sets us apart, and in turn make us exceptional.
Women of color have not been hiding. We have been using our magic to propel change for so many years, especially here at Wheaton. Renaissance House for women of color is a prime example of the ways in which women of color have not and are not settling for meager forms of acceptance. When this house was created in 2006, these women of color decided that being a small fish in a big sea didn’t make really them special but uncomfortable. With that, they created a space that would ensure them the comfort and support that would be essential to their life and success at Wheaton. The creation of Renaissance House was not about having a space of our own but a home where we could be ourselves without quiry; it was about building a sisterhood. There was a lot of backlash from the Wheaton community, as many believed that such a house was not necessary in the post racial society of 2006, but 10 years later, the women of Renaissance House still find it to be more essential than ever before.
On Saturday, April 23, Renaissance celebrated their 10th year as a theme house on campus. We invited our alumna and indulged in conversations about the evolution of Reni, women of color in the world and sharing a shower with 6 plus women. There was a moment when I separated myself from the conversation and took a moment to observe and soak in all of the black girl magic. As I stood there amazed, I realized that this anniversary was not simply about celebrating our house but more importantly about celebrating the home they created, the home we sustained, the sisterhood that expands far beyond the bubble. We were celebrating our existence and persistence in a place that was not made for us. We were celebrating the kind of women Renaissance House fostered, and in turn, the work that Renaissance women are doing in the world. The experiences of women of color (at Wheaton) is incredibly multidimensional —the layers of our identities and experience are complex and problematic, but having Reni makes our process of self-actualization so much easier.
Every time some ask or says, “Can you tell me about Renaissance House?” we are selling an idea and defending a home that many may not believe in. People don’t find our home essential to the Wheaton community because they don’t find us essential to this community. But as women of color, we continue to deconstruct the boxes we’ve been place in and make a home with what remains; that is proof of our magic. Essentially, Renaissance House is about promoting the preservation of the black collegiate women and that is very much worth celebrating!
*black(ness) encompasses all of people of color