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Speaker discusses her social perspective

Artist, activist gives presentation about stereotyping others’ differences

By Sean Plaza
On February 17, 2010

  • Hanifah Walidah, a social activist and playwrite, came to UNC Tuesday to talk about being gay, black and Muslim. About 100 students showed up to hear her speak.

Hanifah Walidah, an artist, social activist and self-proclaimed black/lesbian/Muslim, spoke about her experiences and ideas Tuesday in the University Center Ballrooms.
The presentation was sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies Resource Office, the Women's Resource Center, the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center, Center for International Education, Diversity Council, In & Out and the University Program Council. The speaker dealt with sexual orientation, religious beliefs, race and how these concepts can mesh more easily than you think.

Walidah said setting the tone is one of the most important aspects of life that one can master. She related art to this idea.

"Art is not so much what you (do), but how you do, and when that clicked in my head, I was like, ‘Oh! I can apply that to life,'" Walidah said. "It's not about what you call yourself, but how you come at me — the tone in your voice. What is your intent? Is your intent to change my mind, persuade me or to actually engage and exchange in conversation?"

Another idea she talked about was the use of labels in GBLT community. Although she said they were wonderful in helping to solidify gender identity and sexuality, she also said many tend to focus on the label and not the people behind it. She likened it to appreciating the box of chocolates for the box and not the chocolates.

She also talked about the idea of a double consciousness, a term coined by W.E.B. DuBois, which dealt with the warring identities in the black American. She said for her, this applies to the war between her gender identity and her race identity.

"How this translates into today and being black and gay, sometimes, it feels like I'm being ripped apart," Walidah said.

Another idea she discussed was one she created for herself: a triple consciousness. This is how she related her Muslim upbringing with her race and gender identity. Although she is not a practicing Muslim, she said she will never fully separate herself from Islam. She said her main problem with Islam is the lack of community in relation to women and homosexuals. Until that can be reconciled, she said she won't practice Islam again.

Doug Woody, an associate professor of psychological sciences, agreed with Walidah on the idea of setting the tone.

"I really appreciate her dialogue on the importance of setting the tone," Woody said.  "It is a way for people who strongly disagree to learn from each other and stay respectful toward each other."

Jael Esquibel, the graduate assistant for the GLBTA office,  also said she agreed with the setting-the-tone idea and cited it as a way to demolish the barriers between the gay and religious communities.

She also said she would apply the edict of trying to bridge the gaps between the heterosexual and the homosexual communities.

"I know where I fit in with the heterosexual community, and that's where I can support the gay community," Esquibel said.

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