Jaelyn Taylor ’22 and Talya Tillman ’22 on Patterson Court, 2020
Authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory“
last updated 02.09.2021
Pictured here are Jaelyn Taylor (left) and Talya Tillman (right) who are both currently Juniors at Davidson. They stand on one of the many brick road paths on Davidson’s, and appear to be at an intersection on Patterson Court. Jaelyn is seen wearing a black headscarf, rectangular glasses, a denim jacket, flowy yellow striped pants, and black sandals. Talya has long braids and wears an off the shoulder yellow top, flowy blue pants, and tan sandals. The picture has the following caption written in neon yellow lettering: “Sun and sister friends make the day a lil easier.” To unpack this image, I think it is important to acknowledge how Jaelyn and Taylor are embracing each other in the middle of Patterson Court. Patterson Court is a significant location because it is where all the IFC Fraternities and Eating Houses, as well as the BSC house and Nummit, our campus coffee shop. For BIPOC students, it is very obvious how aggressively white of a space Patterson Court is, yet it also manages to control most of Davidson’s social scene, making it all the more isolating for BIPOC students to find community, especially Black women and femmes. Patterson Court is also an extremely violent space at Davidson, particularly in the IFC Fraternity houses, as sexual violence frequently occurs in these confines. For Jaelyn and Talya to stand proudly and have such an intimate moment captured on Patterson Court is a direct refusal and resistance against the white heteronormative culture that Davidson thrives on. I also think that the color yellow being a pattern in this image, with both the clothing items Jaelyn and Talya wear, as well as the yellow text on the picture itself, is significant and represents the bright light that both of these femmes have within. A bright light that cannot be dimmed, despite the oppression they face at Davidson.
When interviewing Jaelyn for this project, she reflected on her struggles with finding community amongst other Black folks, and that she fell victim to Davidson’s deification of upperclassmen Black women and femmes because she was craving this genuine community. Funnily enough, it was the same upperclassmen Jaelyn admired who brought her in and provided a space for her to feel safe and comforted. We also talked about what it means to leave a legacy behind as a Black femme at Davidson, especially for Jaelyn as she is a queer Black femme who is continuing to explore her gender identity. At its essence, leaving behind a legacy as a Black femme means leaving behind a “legacy of protection” for future Black femmes at the College ( J. Taylor, personal interview, November 25, 2020) A legacy that provides care and love and can serve as a guide for survival.