The view from Spelman: Be your sister’s keeper (Rebuttal)

The view from Spelman: Be your sister’s keeper (Rebuttal)

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A Spelmanite responds to the articles written by Bennett Belles Aziza Jackson and Johnelle Revell. Obviously feelings have been hurt; So how do HBCU's move past it all, and mend fences?

Spellman College - Morehouse College - Bennett College Logos

ATLANTA, Nov. 12, 2015 – The daughter of a Howard Bison and niece to a Bennett Belle, I am a recent graduate of Spelman College, one of the most illustrious universities in the nation for women of color and one of the historically black colleges or universities (HBCU).

It is an honor to be a part of a wonderful sisterhood and to receive such a high quality education from an institution steeped in history and tradition, a school with the mission of educating and empowering young African-American women.

Throughout my matriculation, I heard nothing but good things about Bennett College from Morehouse brothers, who gushed over the treatment they received on their trip to North Carolina to visit their sister school.

These Morehouse brothers have nothing less than praise for the women of Bennett. Furthermore, they praise Bennett without degrading Spelman or the women of that institution.

I was therefore shocked when I read Dear Bennett College: Just end it with Morehouse already (by Aziza Jackson for Communities Digital News), the thesis of which is that Bennett should end its relationship with Morehouse.

Based on the title, I expected the article to bring up issues about distance and the cost to travel to between the two schools and weigh the pros and cons of remaining constitutionally bound.

Instead, I read a very bitter account about Jackson and her fellow Belles taking the four-hour drive down to Atlanta from North Carolina to be met with what she described as “rehearsed lines and wooden dialogue” by disinterested men who acted obligated to talk to her.

She commented that she and the campus queens of Bennett had to have fun among themselves during someone else’s homecoming.

Her own cousin, a Man of Morehouse at the time, didn’t help redeem Morehouse when he voiced his lack of knowledge for its “sister school.”

What sent Twitter, writers and commentators ablaze was the statement that came afterwards.

Jackson touched on not going “low down into the gutter” when discussing what she has heard about Morehouse Men, but quickly stated, “I can’t fully blame this ‘brother’ and those like him when low-hanging fruit is located right across the street.”

Instead of educating the young man on her institution and displaying the poise, class and dignity she claims to have learned from her institution, she brushes off this “brother’s” lack of knowledge as a reason to dismantle the long-standing relationship and tradition between the two schools.

Jackson uses the Morehouse Man’s lack of knowledge and the unsatisfactory treatment as proof that Morehouse didn’t live up to the hype that she expected.

Jackson used this opportunity to sling mud at Spelman, an innocent bystander in this discussion brought into the fray only because it is located across the street from Morehouse. Jackson apparently was angered because she went to someone else’s homecoming, meant for the enjoyment of the alumni and students of both Morehouse and Spelman, and did not receive the welcome she expected.

I thought back to the last homecoming I attended as an undergraduate.

I remember walking with my friend back to Spelman’s campus from Brown Street and being met by a Morehouse brother leading a tour of the Bennett Belles. In the midst of his speech about King’s Chapel and the buildings that house each major, he spied us and said, “Oh hey, there go some of our Spelman sisters.”

My friend and I were met with queenly waves and excited smiles from the Belles, and we returned the favor. We welcomed them to our side of Atlanta and wished them a wonderful trip. Fast forward to later on when we were supporting another friend who was on a Morehouse court at the Miss Maroon and White coronation.

With everyone in the lobby, I took it upon myself to speak to a Bennett sister. I introduced myself, told her about my aunt who went to Bennett, my mother who went to Howard and about myself, the Spelmanite who was welcoming her from one sister school to another.

I recognize the mission with which Bennett has charged her daughters, because it is the same mission Spelman has charged her daughters. My Bison mother and Bennett aunt instilled in me the importance of attending HBCUs. I know what it is like going to an all women’s HBCU and discussing the social, professional, and educational struggles of black women in America.

My institution promotes uplifting and empowering young women of color through providing a quality education. That message is also promoted at Bennett, and I saw it reflected in the Belles I met at homecoming.

The current pettiness and negativity betray that message. It betrays Spelman, Morehouse and Bennett.

I have seen the backlash. I have seen the names. I have seen the articles about the power and wrath of the “Do Not Come For Us, Unless We Send For You” Spelman clapback.

I have read the article Bennett Belles ignite Spelmanites by Bennett Belle Johnelle Revell responding to the uproar. Revell commended her Bennett sister for raising the discussion, even though she disagreed with severing ties with Morehouse completely because she believes in upholding the deep-rooted tradition.

The rest of the article, however, showcases her pride for her college and condemns SpelHouse for their comments towards Bennett and her students.

The same day, I read an article by Spelmanite Kalin Tate, extending a friendly hand towards our Bennett sisters.

Tate talked about creating a relationship and bond between Belles and Spelmanites, an important and noble effort.

When I stepped away from my computer and the flurry of discussion, put down my phone and took a catnap, I came to this conclusion: Like Ms. Tate, I am expressing nothing but love and support for Bennett. However, I cannot ignore the fact that I have yet to see any accountability for slighting Spelman College.

Jackson’s article was bitter and insulting. Revell’s article did what everyone else in our society does when a black woman expresses her pain; it dismisses the pain as jealous, mean-spirited rage.

These two Belles are playing the victim role, painting the Spelman community as ugly and low-class because of the aftermath caused by such a lowbrow comment. Jackson caused great controversy over something trivial, and Revell paints her as a brave woman fighting against a legion of haters.

While I do not condone the memes, jokes, or any threat and nasty comment directed towards the Belles, I do understand where they come from.

What Jackson and Revell fail to see is that the “low hanging fruit” comment was hurtful. It. Hurt.

Any Spelmanite reading that felt offended and responded with what she thought was an equal and opposite reaction to the initial offense. Jackson forgets the demeaning sexual connotation behind calling someone a “low-hanging fruit.” To add insult to injury, Revell pointed the figurative finger at us going ‘See! Look at how y’all act’ when Spelman women expressed their irritation.

We basically get called easy (implied) and get condemned for our anger by someone pulling the “we’re all black women and should uplift each other” card.

Did anyone tell Aziza Jackson that instead of calling her fellow black women “low hanging fruit” she should be uplifting the women of Spelman? Did anyone talk to Johnelle Revell about the pain and hurt we felt when reading this article that sparked our anger?

Do you, Ms. Jackson, feel better for hurting us?

Ms. Revell, what was the proper protocol or response to being called low-hanging fruit? Did either of you consider that the majority of Spelman sisters (across the street) support your status with Morehouse or was that fact insignificant in light of your own personal feelings?

Fortunately for me, I had the pleasure of talking to my mother’s colleague, who is a graduate of Bennett College. She’s expressed her disagreement with the comment and tells me that the majority of the Bennett community is working to improve the situation. I have apologized for the petty memes and comments made to her fellow Belles, and she likewise has given me hope that we can move past this.

This will take time though.

I know people like Kalin Tate and me who will eagerly encourage sisterhood and continue the love and support we have always had for Bennett. Some Spelman sisters may support the idea of sisterhood, but choose to show love from afar. Some sisters need time, because they feel hurt by this whole thing.

Either way, I am making a call out to ALL BELLES and ALL SPELMANITES to move past this, realize our similarities and acknowledge the struggle and hurt we have to go through as black women. Understand that a petty response to a petty comment is not because we don’t respect you but because we are hurt.

Check your sister: If she gets out of line, remind her of the true mission.

The preceding article is a rebuttal to an article previously published in Communities Digital News

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