In its initial birth, the Black Student Association at the American University in Cairo faced many challenges along its path. From complications and betrayals in leadership, having a solid foundation as a respectable entity on campus grounds, recruiting and sustaining the interests of members, and serving as an established graduate student organization on campus. Pains, joys, frustrations, adventures, bonding, and passion came synonymous with its existence.
And as with many organizations finding their mark, there were difficulties to face. One of its kind on the American University in Cairo, it was founded by two African-American (Black American women) as a means to nourish and provide a nurturing environment for Black students (and even faculty) on campus. From the African continent, the Caribbean, Black America (AA), Europe, Australia, South America, Canada, Asia, and Indigenous communities, the opportunity to showcase, celebrate, and share the myriad of Black cultures from all over the world.
Like gumbo, the different elements of Blackness would present the essence of Blackness in all her/his forms. From music, dance, scholarship, food, philosophy, religion, fashion, feminine aesthetics, health, and all the essences of life’s gifts! Black is beautiful! And BSA wanted to share that with those reflecting his/her existence, and those who come from it!
However, BSA faced a period of turmoil as its ability to re-birth itself had been stifled. For a key element and celebration had been removed from its existence, and made invisible: the Black, feminine imagery. An illness had plagued the organization as her existence was seen (when it came to the work) but was rejected as the feminine face of the organization. Instances of women from non-Black communities feeling themselves to replace her (and viewing themselves as superior to her, as a result of racism and colorism in the context of womanhood) existence became obvious in their participation and engagement in BSA events. At the same time, such does not come under any surprise. (Note: Such an analysis is only directed towards those who performed the behavior.)
If one is to examine historical, the significance of the Black, female presence in North Africa (and other arenas of the Arab world), she is often removed from her natural mate. Images and depictions of her existence show her as caring for children not of her own. It was one example of the destruction of the Black family in this region of the world. Black African men were often showcased with non-Black women, as his connection to Black women was deemed unnatural. Despite complexities surrounding female subordination and womanhood, issues concerning race, colorism, class, and national origin came into play as it related to how women were to be categorized. The blackest woman had been relegated to the bottom, despite the instances of being able to negotiate, small survival skills for herself, and her family.
As a result privileges based on color, race, national identity, and class were performed during that time when her existence had been invisible. Simultaneously, the internalization of self-hatred by particular Black male members within the organization became obvious as well; a microcosm of an international problem affecting Black communities around the world. Sneakiness, betrayal, and colluding with personnel (and organizations) who were angered by her presence, also took place.
An intriguing period, indeed. However, a new period in BSA had occurred, and the feminine image of Blackness was made invisible, once again.
As the Spring 2016 semester at the American University in Cairo’s campus begins. BSA looks forward to not only creating a safe space for Black students (which includes that of Black women) on campus, but to also share the cultures of Black communities with the rest of the AUC Community. All the while restoring the essence of love and harmony in Blackness.