BlackSpace, a bimonthly support group for black students on campus, is hoping to bring awareness to the importance of identity through its upcoming “We Wear The Mask” workshop. The event, which will be open to students of multiple identities, seeks to encourage students to turn their personal experiences regarding identity into poetry, music or any other form of art.
April Scott, a co-facilitator of the group who also serves a social director for mental health initiatives in Student Health Services, said that the event aims to bring diverse USC students together.
“‘We Wear The Mask’ is from Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and the poem itself deals with having to wear a mask, or feeling like you have to put a smile on your face when you don't feel like it, which I think is an experience that all students can relate to in some shape, form or fashion," Scott said. "So that’s an event that has kind of grown out of BlackSpace, but it’s for the entire university.”
When BlackSpace met Thursday at the intersection lounge in Russell House, they discuss concerns or struggles regarding identity. Shari Dade, another co-facilitator and a psychologist, said the community is important for students.
"Together, we thought it would be important to continue a space for safety for students come — a communal space — for them to be able to talk about different things that may impact them throughout their day, here on campus or just in general,” Dade said.
Though the group is largely maintained by Student Health Services, it is not considered a counseling or processing group but rather a "community building" group focused on making people feel less alone.
“There is a safety and a familiarity that the students are able to experience when they are in spaces where there’s a shared identity that, especially when you are not of the majority group, you really need those spaces 'cause you can sometimes feel invisible or pushed to the side,” Scott said.
Brianna Lewis, a second-year biology and psychology major who attended BlackSpace for the first time on Thursday, believes the group gives her a voice.
“It’s an area for us as black people to sit down and talk about things that might get overlooked if we were to talk to other people," Lewis said. "A lot of times I’ve noticed that if I speak to some of my white friends about microaggressions, they say that I’m blowing it out of proportion."
Lewis said she enjoyed her time at BlackSpace and would encourage others to check it out.
"This is somewhere where I feel safe being able to talk about stuff that’s happened to me, and I don't feel like I'm overreacting when I mention something that’s happened to me this week and I feel uncomfortable about it,” Lewis said.