Bry Reed ’20, Tati Pless ’19, and Jennifer Thompson’20, 2020
Authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory“
last updated 02.09.2021
In this next image, Bry Reed ‘20, Tatianna Pless ‘19, and Jennifer Thompson ’20, stand together forming the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. triangular hand sign. Davidson College often likes to make celebrities out of Black women and femmes, and it is easy to because the Black women and femmes at Davidson are highly accomplished, talented, and intelligent individuals. However, this only perpetuates the ways in which the academy dehumanizes and “kills” Black women and femmes (Nash, 2019, 3).
Bry is all too familiar with both institutional “degradation” and“deification,”and remarked in our interview that Davidson is particularly successful in silencing Black femme activists through this process of deification (B. Reed, personal interview, November 30, 2020). Throughout her time at Davidson, Bry recalls that the administration consistently viewed her as a “problem,” but ironically enough she was also decorated with awards and showered with praise from the institution when she graduated (B. Reed, personal interview, November 30, 2020). It is this very lack of institutional support, but oversaturation of praise for Black femmes, that makes Davidson an even more violent place. A counterhistorical analysis of this image understands that the femmes in this photo are not sub humans, nor are they superhumans either. It seems that the College can only see and treat Black women and femmes as one way or the other, but the counter-archives work to disrupt this dehumanization and instead affirms the livelihood of these femmes.
In thinking of the Black feminist “commitment to love” and care as “political practice,” how do these images offer a space in the counterhistory to reflect on the power that intimacy between Black women and femmes holds (Nash, 2019, 115)? How does this intergenerational love and sense of connectedness through community transform the way Black women and femmes at Davidson perceive themselves? By centering this transformative type of love in the counterhistory, the counter-archives and these very images can serve as legacies of protection for the next generation of Black women and femmes at Davidson College, while also reaffirming that the institution does not define or control them.