Emma’s Reflections: Speaking, Questioning, Moving Forward

by Emma Kioko

Now that our Black at Bryn Mawr research project is finishing for this semester, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experiences leading six public walking tours in April and May and a handful of private tours. (Grace and I were even given the opportunity to present an abridged version of the tour to President Cassidy and Provost Osirim!)


Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15 introduce the Black at Bryn Mawr tour in Thomas Great Hall (May 6, 2015). Photograph courtesy of the Office of College Communications.

When I originally proposed the idea of the walking tour last summer, and then again in the Fall of 2014, I overlooked the amount of anxiety speaking and presenting in front of large groups of people usually causes me. As Grace and I researched for the tour, none of my nerves kicked in–with the amount of research we had to cover, reaching the walking tour stage of our project always seemed so far away. It wasn’t until the morning of our first tour that I started to panic. There are so many stories of black experiences on campus that our semester-long research period was unable to uncover, so many more angles of research that we were both interested in exploring. I felt a little bit unprepared. The night before the first tour, in fact, when Grace and I met to run through a quick overview of the tour, a Spanish professor stopped to tell us a story about Black student Enid Cook (Class of 1931) outraging students and the administration when she was let into Rockefeller dorm by another student. As interesting as the story was, it was just another reminder for me of just how many stories still sat undiscovered, despite how much information we had uncovered during our time in Special Collections.

Emma speaks to Professor Beard's Black Bards class (April 21, 2015). Photograph by Monica Mercado.

Emma speaks to Professor Beard’s Black Bards class (April 21, 2015). Photograph by Monica Mercado.

On the day of the first tour, I was grateful that our fieldwork advisor, Monica Mercado, suggested holding “test run” tours. The friendly faces in Professor Linda-Susan Beard’s Black Bards class really helped me get over my nerves and the initial awkwardness of testing out the precarious boundary between presenting academic research and presenting a walking tour. One of the greatest challenges leading up to the tour, for me, was challenging myself to break out of my academic voice. While preparing for the tour, Grace and I even had to scrap a huge document that detailed everything we wanted to discuss, because when we practiced for the tour and read from the paper we had written, it came out dry and incredibly academic. Negotiating the difference between the language I would use for a paper and the language I ended up using on the walking tour was not an easy process. Continue reading

A Tribute to Perry House scheduled for May 2

from the Pensby Center:

Perry House at Bryn Mawr College.

Perry House at Bryn Mawr College.

The Perry House Committee invites the Bryn Mawr College community to A Tribute to Perry House on Saturday, May 2 at 2:00 PM. We will gather on the grounds of the original Perry House (rain site: Ely Room, Wyndham Alumnae House). President Kim Cassidy, former Associate Chief Information Officer and Equal Opportunity Officer Florence Goff, Nia Turner ’05 and current students Khadijah Seay and Danielle Cadet will offer remarks and reflections. Attendees will be encouraged to mingle and share memories at a reception immediately following. If you plan to attend and have not yet RSVPd, please fill out this brief form so that we know how many people to expect.

Attendees are also invited to participate in “Black at Bryn Mawr,” a 60-minute walking tour created by Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15. The tour, which will leave Thomas Hall at 4PM, offers a new history of the experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff at the College since its founding. (We suggest practical shoes–approximately 10 minutes of the tour takes place on a wooded trail.) Let us know your intention to participate in “Black at Bryn Mawr” on the registration form.

Black at Bryn Mawr Walking Tour Schedule


Poster by Grace Pusey.

Poster by Grace Pusey. 

Public tours for the Bryn Mawr College community launch Thursday, April 23 at 5pm. Additional tours will be offered April 24 and 25, and May 2, 4, and 6. For more details, see Upcoming Events and Walking Tour RSVP page.

Grace and Emma will also be presenting at the final Friday Finds of the semester, on April 24 from 4-5pm in Canaday 205 (Special Collections Seminar Room). In this venue, they will share their research with examples pulled from the collections of the College Archives.


Telling Untold Histories

by Monica Mercado

On Friday, April 9, Emma and Grace (along with Brenna Levitin ’16) facilitated a conversation on student research at Telling Untold Histories, the first unconference in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region devoted to public history theory and practice. We quickly managed to meet all of the Bryn Mawr College alumnae in the room!

Mawrters at Telling Untold Histories, April 9, 2015 (photograph by Monica Mercado).

Mawrters at Telling Untold Histories, April 9, 2015 (photograph by Monica Mercado).

Notes from the session, Students Telling Untold Histories, are available online via Google Docs.

Unwavering Dissent Part II: Challenging the Rhetoric of Racism in 1972 and the First Fight for Perry House

by Emma Kioko

Note: This is the second of a two-part post about the climate of racial activism on campus between 1970 and 1972. The two posts center on two events: the “near sit-in” of March 12 (1970) and the first fight for Perry House (1972). Woven through both events are incredibly intelligent and nuanced discussions of race introduced and led by students including Bryn Mawr’s Sisterhood. These women paved the way for truly engaged activism on campus and their efforts should be celebrated and remembered. Read Unwavering Dissent Part I here.

via Greenfield Center tumblr.

Sisterhood letter, 1972 (to view second page, visit the Greenfield Digital Center tumblr).

A Demand for Space in 1972

The fall of 1970 welcomed a new perspective on race relations at Bryn Mawr in the form of a new president, Harris Wofford. This new president seemed genuinely interested in fostering better lines of communication between students of color and the administration. In a speech at Convocation in 1970 he said, “The antidote is a deep respect for persons, an enjoyment of differences, and a robust readiness for dialogue.” At the beginning of each academic year President Wofford reached out to the women of Sisterhood and reaffirmed his commitment to them and all black students on campus. However, the black women on campus were still missing something they regarded as incredibly important to their mission of creating community and celebrating culture: an adequate cultural space.

Given to them after their initial demands in 1970, Longmaid House, located at a far edge of campus close to Batten House, was wholly unacceptable as a cultural center. Constant flooding and security problems with the old building made it unsuitable for residence and completely useless as a display space for art. Racial tensions were high in the dorms, and the black women of Bryn Mawr were fed up with the conditions of Longmaid. In addition to the conditions of Longmaid House, the women of Sisterhood observed that Perry House, the space they had originally requested and been told was already contracted as a language house, was not being utilized as a language house at all. Owl House, their second choice, which they had been told was a fire hazard in 1970 and unusable, was being used in spite of the repair fees. These inconsistencies did not add up. Had the administration lied years before for the sole purpose of not giving up Perry or Owl as Black Cultural Center? Unwilling to sit silent, they began crafting a new list of demands for a safe space on campus in 1972.

On February 28, 1972, the women of Sisterhood issued to Dean McPherson and President Wofford a demand for Perry House. Continue reading