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Black History Month Keynote: Phoebe Robinson

Stand-up comedian, writer and actress Phoebe Robinson spoke as this year’s Black History Month Keynote Speaker. From 7-9 p.m. on Feb. 29, she spoke about how her experiences can be related and reflected in the lives of Black students.

The month of February is dedicated to reflecting Black experiences amongst people of color, said Robinson, “and those narratives are neither diminished nor patronized.”

Her speech was eagerly awaited after having been pushed back from its original scheduling on Feb. 16.

“I watched some of her videos and it was funny when she walked into the C-house this afternoon,” Myhana Kerr ’18 said. “It was one of those moments when you see someone on TV or the internet and then you see them in real life and you’re like, ‘This isn’t real,’ but it is real.”

“I always felt like I didn’t fit in,” Robinson said. Most of the Black audience members seemed to relate to a story Robinson told about how many of the books she was assigned in college were written by male and white authors, while many of the students and teachers were people of color.

“It was definitely cool seeing somebody in comedy who shares a lot of the same experiences that I’ve had. I used to grow up watching ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ and all these different shows about making people laugh. It was nice seeing that there are other faces out there who look like mine who are making people laugh and who are being successful as well,” Becky Githinji ’18 said.

Robinson’s wrapped up her the speech by including an excerpt from her soon-to-be-published book, “You Can’t Touch My Hair (& Other Things I Have to Explain),” a collection of essays from her blog and letters to her niece about race, gender and pop culture. While the book’s topics vary, Robinson said her main take-away was about being the “‘Yes’ to the ‘No’ that their parents heard. Black children making changes, progress, by doing the activities that were just a generation ago outside the realm of realistic possibilities.”

Dubie Toa-Kwapong ’16 attended the speech. “I looked forward to this for a while, following her on social media, and it’s just exciting to know that the people you look up to have dealt with similar struggles and have also learned how to overcome them,” Toa-Kwapong said. “When I see someone like her just keep going, I learn some of her secrets and the tools that she uses to push herself further. I think that’s been the most important thing.”

March 4, 2016

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