Brittney Cooper explains #SayHerName

CHLOE SFERRA

Special to The Denisonian

As equality movements start gaining more followers, it can be easy for highly debated issues to veil underlying ones.  Dr. Brittney Cooper, an activist for females in the black community, visited Denison last Thursday to bring to light one important community that Cooper says often overlooked.

On Thursday, Denison students had the opportunity to hear Cooper speak at Swasey Chapel. Starting off her tour of lectures at universities and being the first of Denison’s Laura C. Harris Symposium speakers, Cooper started a conversation about female black empowerment in the halls of this school.

Students sat captivated as Dr. Cooper shared the unfair reality of females in the black community. She spoke of the campaign #SayHerName and the goal of creating a gender-inclusive movement for black lives. As the Black Lives Matter and feminist movements have gained more awareness, people often forget how hard it can be for those in both communities.

Everyone knows of the male victims of tragic events involving police brutality and other authorities. Their stories are often discussed, and there is no shortage of people ready to stand in support. When it comes to female victims, however, Cooper told the audience that they do not receive the same attention. Cooper shared #SayHerName as a way to give the female black community a voice.

“Things don’t change on campus unless students stand up and demand change… Find the folks who are going to be supportive,” Cooper said as she answered student questions. “There are ways to do this that are effective.”

A main idea of the lecture was how black females have a complex solidarity when it comes to the communities to which they belong. They often are given the responsibility to represent their race as well as their gender, making the world a harder place for black females to be leaders.

Cooper was not just another speaker preaching her ideology. She used her wit and charm to relate to the students and to give them hope for change. Her words struck a chord with many in the audience, in particular, Danielle Kepeden ‘18.

“It was like getting advice from a smarter, older sister who has gone through the world and seen these things, and you’re able to relate to her advice and and try to apply it to your life,” Kepeden said. She further commented on the lecture when she said, “I thought it was great and well organized.”

Kepeden was able to ask Cooper some questions and continue the conversation that was started. Students were engaged during the lecture and had a dialogue with Cooper well after her speech ended.  There seemed to be so many words that students had been waiting to say.

Cooper’s lecture had the crowd in a standing ovation. She spoke about notions that she believes people need to hear, such as the sisterhood that females of her community are always willing to give. She spoke of the power black females have and the lack of gratitude they are given.

Cooper suggested many things that she believes should be fixed, such as the idea that classrooms are safe for all students, especially minorities.

Cooper gave her listeners inspiration for change. She did not shy away from ugly truths or voicing her opinion. She was not scared to call people out or ask for people to stand with her on this campaign.

“The world is going to change because women are going to change it,”Cooper says as her time on stage came to an end. Cooper has started a conversation that many students seem willing to carry and add to as the series of speakers continue.

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