Lynnyanda Dixon looked at her peers and quietly told them something that has been on her mind. “You don’t know this, but I get asked if I’m gay a lot based off of what I wear. Some days I look like girl, sometimes I look like a guy. I’m not a makeup kind of girl. I ask, ‘What would give you that impression?’ I find it odd.”
It was a defining moment for Professor Lisa Kendall who, along with her LEAD2011 and 3020 leadership classes, created the forum for this kind of discussion. “I asked the students to think about something that has affected them. The intention is to have a conversation.” The “She Says, He says, They Say” open mic session was one of a number of events featured during “Our Expo: Understanding Others, Understanding Ourselves and Creating Community,” a biannual expo hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences.
This year, the name was changed to reflect a greater sense of inclusivity: “‘Our Expo’ is more appropriate than just [calling the event] a women’s expo. Class discussions have often circled the current climate in our nation, challenges in our city, and have made it clear that we need to be open to listening to others,” Kendall says.
This is your opportunity to let your voice be heard.”
The Expo touched on topics that aren’t easy to discuss, let alone in a college forum. Rape on campuses, mental health, divorce, body image and self-esteem, hunger, gender-related issues and diversity. Hallie Gamble, author of “The Third Emancipation,” spoke about growing up in the segregated South and how, after high school, it took 20 years for her to earn her first college degree, all because of the color of her skin.
“There are places in the world where diversity is accepted. I was a training teacher in Russia when someone approached me and got in my space,” Gamble said. “I found out later it was because he wanted to kiss the chocolate lady. Chocolate is very special to the Russians. It was endearing to me. Diversity is about differences. In 2019, a record-breaking 102 women were sworn into US Congress. You — our young leaders , males and females — what are you going to bring to the record? This is your opportunity to let your voice be heard.”
And it starts with conversations.