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CU project featured on CNN

By Brigitta Gough
On April 17, 2017

Castleton students participated in a nationwide project created by CNN titled "The First Time I Realized I was Black." Shown is student Kinyenje Ngigi who had a different experience than other students since he did not grow up in the U.S. 

Three students in Professor Sanjukta Ghosh’s Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Media class have contributed videos to a nationwide project that CNN has created called “The First Time I Realized I was Black.”

The project consists of a series of videos in which African Americans tell their story about the moment they realized they were different because of the color of their skin.

People nationwide can contribute to this project by using #realizediwasblack.

            Elizabeth Boutin, Myles Riley and Keeley Swainback were the students who decided to make their own videos for this project. They interviewed African Americans on campus to find out their stories.

            Ghosh said she likes what CNN is trying to accomplish with this series of videos. She said it’s important to hear these types of stories to make people more aware of racism that may not be clear.

She said it would be even better if they allowed the videos submitted to be longer because viewers would get to hear more of people’s stories, which would have a greater impact.

 “The subjects they interviewed were so interesting, I actually wanted to know much more about them,” Ghosh said about the people in the videos her students made.

Boutin, a sophomore at Castleton University who contributed to this project, feels it is a great way to make people more aware of racism that still exists.

“It’s amazing to hear other people’s stories, what they had to go through and I think that it is important that we do hear those stories,” Boutin said.

The person Boutin interviewed was Kinyenje Ngigi, a Castleton sophomore. Ngigi is an international student from Kenya and explained how he had a very different experience from others who were interviewed for the project because he did not grow up here.

 In a separate interview from the one done for the project, Ngigi explained that he has not experienced any racism since he has been in this country. He said that he has never felt different.

“The whole different background thing never bothered me,” Ngigi said referring to people of different races and from different places. He explained that he went to schools in Kenya that were very diverse international schools, so he never felt like he was different.

Riley, a fifth-year student here at Castleton who contributed to the project, believes that videos have a lot more power and will leave a greater impact on people and that this project will make people more aware.

Through the project, Riley said he learned  a lot more about his roommate, Adnane Adossama. Adossama told his story on film about how when he was younger he would get in trouble for being loud in the classroom even though he was not the only one being loud.

But he was just the only black student.

Riley was surprised to hear this.

“Living with someone who has lived a different walk of life, it’s always interesting to hear about the types of challenges that you have never had before due to something out of your control,” Riley said.

Swainback, a freshman, said she really enjoyed creating this video because it really changed her perspectives on racism. She hadn’t thought of how some comments that were meant as compliments could be interpreted as very racist. She interviewed Markell Nault, and was shocked when Nault described how many people will say to her, “You’re so pretty for a black girl.”

Swainback had heard people say things similar to this but had never thought about what it implied, which Nault explained saying black girls are not seen as pretty. Swainback said it is important to change people’s perspectives, as hers was, because so many people are unaware that some things they say are hurtful and racist.

Ghosh believes this type of project is allowing people of color to share their experiences so others can be aware of how their words and actions affect others. 

“Rather than just speaking for people of color, we are just letting them speak about their own experiences,” Ghosh said.

The Castleton Spartan is the student run newspaper for Castleton University in Castleton, Vermont. The goal of the paper is to inform readers about events, topics and individuals pertaining to the Castleton campus and surrounding community.

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