I was still pissed about the cis-heterosexual-white-male critique on “How to be a Weird Black Girl on a White ‘Liberal’ Campus” some weeks later, and that’s when I realized I had an outlet for my rage after all!
Black Pen, White Paper is a blog for and by students of the black diaspora at predominantly white universities. The writing reflects the particular situations of the student as they navigate white academia while black.
I was first introduced to the blog by the moderator, who I met through a mutual friend. blackpenwhitepaper, the moderator/creator, is also a black student at a white university and understood my passion behind my writing that explored my nuanced perspective on blackness. “How to be a Weird Black Girl” found a home.
blackpenwhitepaper loved my blog and I loved hers, so as mutual fangirls I was fortunate enough to interview Black Pen, White Paper herself – Chidiche Dike – for a Q&A about about the blog, storytelling, and more.
What do you think is the most important part of Black Pen White Paper?
It’s therapeutic. It’s raw. It’s inspiring. It allows readers who are feeling the same way at their university to know that they are not alone and that they are not crazy for feeling like the “other”. It gives insight into the lives of many Black faces that are expected to thrive in very White spaces. It shows that we care about ourselves, honestly. Most importantly, to me it shows that we really want to move beyond this point; we do not want our future brothers and sisters to receive the same micro aggressions, and in some cases violence, that we have experienced. This is a catalyst for change.
In what ways did your upbringing influence how you write stories and how you read stories?
I was born in the United States, but I was not brought up with American values. My family is from Nigeria. My parents and older brother immigrated to the United States 20+ years ago. It’s always been interesting trying to figure out on your own how to navigate in American culture when you are raised in Nigerian-Igbo culture. I feel that being a Nigerian born in the United States gives me an opportunity to see both sides of the spectrum of Blackness. I have experienced prejudice on all sides; sometimes I am too/not enough Black for society and other times I am too/not enough Nigerian for society. Although in the past I felt that being a Nigerian born in the States was a burden, it has allowed me to see the value in knowing, understanding, and demonstrating both Black/African-American and Nigerian history, values, customs, etc.
What was your first significant experience with white censorship, discouragement, misunderstanding etc. to your storytelling and/or perspective?
When I was in (I believe) 3rd grade, around December we were starting to learn about different celebrations that took place during the holiday season. I was only familiar with Christmas; Nigerians are very religious people and I was raised Roman Catholic. I remember my teacher, who was a white woman, mentioning Kwanzaa being a holiday celebrated by Africans. I had no idea what she was talking about lol! There were other kids of color in my class but I happened to be the only “African”. Everyone, including my teacher, assumed that I faithfully celebrated this holiday with my family. She did not understand that I was just as clueless about the holiday as she was. I was somewhat timid at this age and tried to explain to her that I was not familiar with the celebration, but after a while I just pretended that I knew everything about Kwanzaa. I did not want any more individual attention on me so I went along with her assumption and made up stories to share with the class about my “imaginary” annual Kwanzaa celebrations. To my teacher, Africa was more of a country, not a continent.
What was the impetus for creating Black Pen White Paper?
In 2012, the beginning of my college experience was SUPER rough; I could not find comfort in my new environment. I decided at that moment that I wanted to start a blog to help distract me from the isolation I felt at University. Then, I started to realize that the majority of my discomfort resulted from barely seeing or connecting with people that looked like myself (people that were Black/African American/African/Nigerian). That inspired the idea behind Black Pen, White Paper. The blog is dedicated to Black students who also feel like the “other” while in pursuit of higher education. I believe that the blog helps connect students from all of the country and allows individuals to find reassurance that their struggle is a very real one.
I felt that starting Black Pen, White Paper the moment I did was very necessary. It is actually really interesting because the first few weeks/months after I officially launched the blog, I started to notice different Universities making videos, creating hashtags, and launching their own blogs that were specifically about the Black experience in higher education. I thought every one of the ideas were really cool! Some of the campaigns that I followed were the “I too, am Harvard”, “I too, am Oxford”, Black Bruins, Black@Cal and #BBUM. The only thing that I did not like was the fact that, although all of us as Black students were receiving micro aggressions on our campuses, I did not see any schools coming together and telling their stories cross-coastally. I wanted to make sure that Black Pen, White Paper did just that.
Was anyone else involved in its creation/development?
The blog was mentally established a couple weeks into my freshman year. I was so nervous to get the blog going at that point; I ended up holding off on its launch for a while and talking to my close friends about all my ideas for it. To be honest, they helped me gain confidence regarding the concept of the blog and reassured me that the work was necessary and needed for our community. That support allowed me to officially launch the blog in the spring of 2013. My close friends and my older brother have acted as sort of an advisory board for the blog. They give me their honest opinions about my writing, what I choose to write about, and the writing that I choose to post from submissions. As far as the creation and development of the blog goes, I control all of that myself (for now). It is a goal of mine to create a non-profit organization from the concept of Black Pen, White Paper that assists Black people pursuing higher education by providing tutoring/mentoring services, scholarship funds, self-development workshops, etc. When I am ready for all of that, I will be looking to bring others onto the team.
How can writers submit their work?
Aye, I am always looking for more submissions! To submit work to Black Pen, White Paper you must email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the header of the email, please write the title of the work you are submitting. If you cannot come up with a title on your own, I will make sure to come up with one after reading the piece. The body of the email should contain these key elements: your full body of work, your full name, the city you are from, the University you attend, and your major/area of study (for example: BA in Linguistics, minor in Art History). I do accept submissions from people that are no longer students, but I would prefer that this person have some type of connection to education (for example look at post “Running to School While Black”). But, even if do not feel like your specific piece fits this criteria, please submit anyways! Sometimes certain stories are just that necessary and need to be shared. I will send you a personal email and tweet the link to your piece once it is posted on the blog!
Chidiche (for English speakers, the “i’s” sounds like “e’s”, the “e” sounds like “a”, and no, you may not give her a nickname) is currently in her third year at California State University, Long Beach in California pursuing a BA in Economics with a minor in Urban Studies (emphasis in Urban Theory and Practice). She was born in South Sacramento, and at 12 years old her parents decided to move the family (7 members deep) to Elk Grove, a new suburb outside of Sacramento. She’s co-owner of One Man’s Trash, a business on a mission to help young college, professional women find affordable, stylish clothing, foster a network of creative women, encourage sustainable living, and work to help women within their respective communities.
Thank you Chidiche for the outlet, and for being too cool in general.
P.S. POC/WOC SOLIDARITY OR DIE!!!