Jana Player-Pauldin’s, Connelia Holloman’s, and Tina Smith’s graduation, 1992.
Authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory“
last updated 02.09.2021
This next picture is of Jana Player-Pauldin, Connelia Holloman, and Tina Smith at their Commencement in 1992. We can tell that it is Commencement because they are wearing their caps and gowns, except Connelia Holloman in the middle is not wearing a cap. The three women are very close to each other, with Connelia wrapping her arms around the other two drawing them in even closer. They have beaming smiles on their faces that are quite contagious, and even though the image was posed, their expressions still seem very genuine. Much like the image of Beryl Thomas, there are so many emotions, experiences, obstacles, and accomplishments that lie behind the smiles of these women. What did it feel like for them to graduate Davidson? What did they have to overcome to get here? How did their own communities and intimate relationships with one another help them collectively survive and thrive?
These two photos in conversation with each other show us a glimpse into Black women and femmes’ attitude towards Davidson by the time they graduate. The smiles and expressions on their faces are joyful, but this joy seems to be both a sense of accomplishment and the excitement of finally leaving Davidson. For Black women and femmes at Davidson, graduation is not simply a milestone. It also marks the end of a long four year period of institutional, social, and emotional violence and trauma.