Introduction by Anisha Dhungana ’21
Black international students have been an integral part of the history of Davidson; from the first Black student at Davidson in 1963 till now (2020), the contributions of African students deserve to be recognized and highlighted. However, the experiences of international students and Black international students tend to begin and end with the international festival and food. As part of the Stories Yet to be Told initiative, the stories told through these eight photos aim to create a holistic understanding of the experiences of Black international students who have to grapple with a new environment, school, culture and life at Davidson. At the same time, these are only eight photos and hardly begin to scratch the surface of what these multitudes of experiences symbolize.
Acknowledging this contradiction, the eight photos in this essay chronicles the diverse lives of Black international students beginning with the first Black student at Davidson with whom the conversations of integration were made a reality, notwithstanding hardship and criticisms of Davidson’s administration. Following the lives of students from the Congo,
Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia over the 57 years since integration, we learn about the various ways in which they have made their mark on Davidson and the world beyond the international festival. From sports, the arts, student leadership to their lives after Davidson in which they have become lawyers, doctors, professors, and more, these photos will challenge and problematize Davidson’s tokenization of Black international students and discuss the lasting contributions that they have made in hopes of creating dialogue between African students and the white Davidson community.
Introduction by Anisha Dhungana ’21
Photos are able to capture a fragment of time within a grander context and these photosserve the same purpose. This essay will describe, analyze and contextualize the photos by using personal narratives, interviews and articles. These photos were primarily collected through the Davidson College archives, yearbooks (Quips and Cranks) as well as donations. Though there were photos within the archives and different departments of the university, I had to conduct further research through The Davidsonian articles and accounts of these alumni on Davidson’s website after their time at Davidson. Two photos were donations from alumni and one was a photo that I took. As an international student, I was able to use my connections in the International Students Program department to put me in contact with African alumni.
Furthermore, I was fortunate to also be able to talk and discuss the experiences of a few of the people pictured in these photos which was critical in paving my understanding and analysis of those photos. I found these phone and Zoom calls very important and helpful for the creation of this essay. For the people that I was not able to contact but are pictured, I was able to find more information through the yearbooks or The Davidsonian articles; however, these understandings were not as thorough, which meant I had to also use the knowledge gained from the past years of Africana Studies to complement my analysis. Using Africana methodology, I stayed subjective yet reflexive throughout the research process.
Additionally, as an international student but as not someone who is Black, I was able to relate to some of the experiences shared by the subjects of these photos, but obviously not all. Reflexivity was crucial during the moments when I thought that I could apply understandings of expand on my lived experiences as an international student at Davidson to the lived experiences of the Black international students pictured. However, that is not the case, which is why I aimed to incorporate as much of the discussions that I had with the subjects that I was able to talk to and incorporate as much of the literature that was on the subject through Davidson’s records, which sometimes had very little information. Furthermore, when I took my own photo (the last photo in this exhibition), though I was a friend taking photos of other friends for a final project, I kept them in the forefront of my mind throughout the process. I let them take the lead and do what they felt comfortable doing and I was solely the photographer, not the director.
Finally, one last aspect of this exhibition that needs to be reflected upon is the terminology used. I chose to focus my project primarily on international students who are Black and from Africa. However, simply writing African students meant that it included students who are first or second generation African immigrants to the U.S., which would not allow for the international student (F-1 visa) perspective. Furthermore, writing African international students include Northern African students, many of whom do not experience the influences of Blackness. Therefore, I decided to use the identifying term Black international students, which highlights the perspectives of F-1 visa students as well as Black students.
Taking all of this into consideration, the photos that follow are simply fragments of the larger history of Black international students at Davidson and, if anything, shows that more work needs to be done in recording the contributions, experiences and lives of these students who have continuously challenged, changed and incorporated Davidson and African cultures.