The independent news organization of Duke University

Baldwins start Black Women's Initiative

Through late-night conversation in Crowell Quadrangle and meetings with faculty, three Baldwin Scholars began in October what has now become known as the Black Women's Initiative.

Modeled after the Women's Initiative and the Campus Life and Learning Project, the Black Women's Initiative plans to research issues confronting black women at Duke, said co-founder Laura Welch, a junior.

Welch founded the initiative with fellow juniors Kelley Akhiemokhali and Kamaria Campbell.

"What we want to do is interrogate what the status of black women is on campus right now," Akhiemokhali said.

Although the situation of black women has been included in previous studies at Duke, Welch said she hopes to find information more specific to their demographic.

"Black women are a really unique subpopulation of Duke students," she said. "We define the Black Women's Initiative as a multifaceted approach to understand and address how various forces shape black female identity at Duke."

Although the Women's Initiative focused on broader issues such as "effortless perfection," the Black Women's Initiative plans to combat the topic of a dual identity, Welch said.

"It's the concept of not having to put one identity before the other," she said. "In one situation I shouldn't have to put a black identity before a female identity or a female identity before a black identity. There's a need to coexist."

The initiative includes forums and a house course taught by the founders, and may potentially introduce focus groups, Akhiemokhali said.

"[The initiative] will end up cumulating to a policy letter sent to the administration," she said. "It's kind of a three-pronged process."

Akhiemokhali said the initiative should bridge a disconnect among black women's perceptions of themselves.

"Hopefully this will get people talking, in that they're not alone if they feel x, y and z," she said.

After heading the research for the Women's Initiative, Donna Lisker, director of the Women's Center, is overseeing the project.

"I'm sponsoring a house course that Laura and Kamaria are teaching," Lisker said. "I've also been advising Laura and Kamaria on their research."

The Black Women's Initiative plans to expand on some of the research from the Women's Initiative, Lisker said.

"There is data in there about black women, but Laura and Kamaria are interested in really doing a study that's just about that," she added.

Many black female Duke students, however, said they were unaware of the initiative.

"I don't know about it really," freshman Courtney Jamison said. "I just haven't heard anything."

Ultimately, Welch said she hopes the initiative can eliminate stigmas and negative views of black women.

"What we're looking for is what stereotypes women on campus think of themselves," she said. "I could say what stereotypes I have or want to dispel, but what we're trying to find are stereotypes affecting everybody so that we can break them down."


Share and discuss “Baldwins start Black Women's Initiative” on social media.