Last Friday I had the amazing opportunity to attend The Corner’s Q&A Session featuring Damon Young at The Corner in Oakland. The night gave an opportunity for community members to come and listen to Damon Young talk. The day before I tried to do as much research on Damon Young as I possibly could in a 24-hour window, just so I could get a feel for what the following night would be like. I think before I get into the exciting details of the night I should to first give a little background to who Damon Young is and why he made the night a special one. Damon Young is a published author and writer/editor-in-chief of his website VerySmartBrothas (VSB)- a blog focusing on love/relationships, race, and pop-culture through the perspective of a black man. You can find his work on popular publications such as GQ, Ebony Mag, Essence Mag, The Wall Street Journal, and everything in between. He is also a Pittsburgh native (just like me), so basically I was going to be hooked no matter what! Being young, black, and having a resume as impressive as his I was nothing but excited.
When I arrived to the event I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but I was eager for whatever the night would have in-store. The night began with a playlist of neo-soul music, mingling, and food as people made their way into the space and waited for the night to officially begin. The event got started around 7:30 with a packed house and the energy was great. It was introduced and facilitated by Alyssa Lyon, a Bronx native who found her way to Pittsburgh for school initially and fell in love with the city. She led the conversation with such enthusiasm and really made for an enjoyable yet very necessary conversations to take place. After the introduction and a few jokes from both Damon and Alyssa, the conversations truly began. Damon started by addressing as what he called “the elephant in the City of Pittsburgh”, gentrification. Recently we have heard… Gentrification being an issue that is greatly impacting people of color and the disenfranchised in the City of Pittsburgh. He gave some insight about gentrification from his perspective, him being a black man growing up in East Liberty before gentrification began in the city. The dialogue then shifted from the topic of gentrification to the tragic event that took place in Charlottesville, VA earlier that week.
I had expected that Charlottesville would be a topic of discussion because of how sensational and how recent the story was. Although what I did not expect was almost 20 minutes being spent on the topic because what took place in Charlottesville, to me, was the reality for so many people of color and especially black people in the United States. Throughout that section of the discussion I spent time asking myself, “Why are we spending so much time on this?” Because for me, Charlottesville was yet another example of racist white people having the space to be racist and white, but I still didn’t really get that it. I began to look around the room, and I noticed that there was WAY more white people than I thought were there initially. At that moment I realized we had spent so much time on this because Charlottesville was not their reality. It was ours. It was something that was foreign for them, something that they never had to confront head-on. So there they had the chance to process what happened in Charlottesville.
From Charlottesville came the discussion of the new state of hip-hop and the need of political rappers, the NFL, the necessity of leadership in new movements, allyship, and maybe the two topics that stuck with me the most- fragile masculinity and the need and lack of access to spaces. It was really refreshing to hear a black man talk about fragile masculinity and how it has impacted his own life, but what I wanted answered and didn’t really get the answer to was how black women are supposed to deal with fragile masculinity and patriarchal systems in general when it affects in every front. This will probably be a question I’ll continue to ask myself and have to work through forever because it just seems to be something many people don’t really care about. It leads me to wonder where there will be spaces for black women to hash through the things that seem to be our problems to fix.
This inspired me to think of how women of color in college could get the opportunity to talk through the questions we have and the problems we experience that we never get the opportunity to talk about. Creating a safe space for women of color at predominantly white institutions to talk about their experience is want I believe is the first step to getting through the woes that we go through being women of color at PWI's. On September 22nd Honestly Imani Jai and The Corner are presenting a open discussion for women of color that attend the universities in Pittsburgh to come for a night of fellowship, conversation, food, laughter, music, and more importantly a chance to share with each other our experiences and our truth.
Check out the pictures from the night below and look on The Corner's website for more info about upcoming events! Also check out Damon's amazing website, VerySmartBrothas.