Coffee with Michael Ivory ’17

Michael Ivory grew up with heroes and heroines like the Invisible Woman and Thor. He’d spend his free time collecting comic books, flipping through their pages and admiring the bright colors and stories that each one had to offer.

Now at Wheaton, he looks to comic books with an appreciation for what they represented in his life. “I really like the X-Men and how being mutant is a metaphor for race or sexual orientation because they are a marginalized, oppressed group,” Ivory said. “I think there’s something that’s drawn me to them and the fact that they had each other and and had that sense of community.”

Being a senior advisor for QTPOC, a co-facilitator for intergroup dialogue, and a co-senior advisor with Aisha Dumbuya for Black Students Association (BSA), Ivory has his hand in a number of social justice groups across campus. Now a senior, he’s watched these groups embrace a more intersectional side.

“I’ve seen BSA grow so much,” he said. “I remember my freshman year, BSA would meet biweekly and they would have events that were pretty good …We’re reaching out and thinking about different ways that black identities are affected. None of us are just black or African American or Afro-Caribbean or African. We’re impacted by different identities as well.”

Collaborating with groups on campus like Distinguished Women of Color Coalition (DWOCC) or the Film club, BSA has been able to address topics such as representation of black people in film to how race and sexuality interact with one another.

While BSA has expanded immensely over the past few years, several students along with Ivory have identified the challenge of getting others to come to their events, particularly white men.

“We do need to have more people who identify as white to come to our meetings because it’s important to get this information,” he said. “Because a lot of them come from areas in which they might not have that background in which they are around people who are different from them in terms of racially or sexual orientation and so on and this is where they get that exposure.”

In particular, he emphasizes the educational benefits of engaging with social justice events, stating that they are a way to fully utilize what Wheaton has to offer.  “At Wheaton they really emphasize getting a full liberal arts education so you take classes that are outside of your major,” Ivory said. “I think when students don’t reach out to these clubs and organizations and go to these meetings and events they’re not getting the education they could be getting.”

But in the face of President Trump, whose celebration of Black History Month was viewed as unsatisfactory by many, Ivory states that the fight for social justice is still just as important as it was before. “I don’t think BSA is more important now than it has been under Barack Obama because these issues that the black community is facing, we’ve always faced,” he said. “It’s just more in the public eye, we get to see it more. We now have a president that is kind of the representation of all that. So we’re forced to see it.”

Now as he looks towards a potential career in working behind the scenes in the government, he hopes to find concrete ways to help. “A lot of times there’s a lot in the world going on that makes you feel powerless and I think by being able to work in the government, it can kind of give me some kind of agency. I feel like I’m doing something.”