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Students introduce a Black Feminist Manifesto with dance, poetry and heart

Three women smile and pose for a photo in the BAAC office
Ratu Marutle, junior anthropology major, T’Hani Holt, senior social work major, and Shayla Monteiro, senior social work and women’s studies major pose for a photo after their presentation, Towards a Black Feminist Manifesto. (Chiara Garland | Collegian)

With poetry, with dance, with soft voices, with loud voices, with borrowed theories and new ones, students at Colorado State University introduced a Black Feminist Manifesto to their campus.

T’Hani Holt, senior social work major, Ratu Marutle, junior anthropology major, and Shayla Monteiro, senior social work and women’s studies major, led their audience at the 28th annual Diversity Symposium through their individual and shared experiences as Black women on CSU’s campus in their presentation Towards a Black Feminist Manifesto, a performance made in anticipation for the soon-to-be released book.  

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They described their individual experiences as being unique to their personal interests, areas of knowledge and backgrounds, and the shared being the experience of feeling too Black to be woman and too woman to be Black.

“There has been a theme of struggle to enjoy who we are,” Holt said.

The presenters offered the audience of around 30 people the ends of brightly colored yarn and similarly colored paper hearts – inviting them to participate and literally hold their hearts. Holt, Marutle and Monteiro took turns dancing, writing on the board and reciting prose and poetry. Monteiro recited original pieces in a quiet voice, begging the audience to lean forward, and a louder voice, filling the small room with her words.

Holt is a leader in the project that started in March when 13 Black students wanted to attend the Words of Fire Conference at Spellman College in Atlanta. The conference cost money, so the group brainstormed ways to get there.

“We started writing donation letters and we decided that one of the ways we could get funding from departments and CSU would be to bring something back,” Holt said. “We were thinking ‘What can we bring back that’s going to change the direction CSU’s going in (regarding) diversity and inclusion?’”

A manifesto was born.

Every Sunday through the summer different students gathered for 2 to 3, or sometimes 4, hours to write, share and manifest.

The end result is a book with 9 contributors that will be released late October.

Holt anticipates positive campus reaction to the book. She says that students and faculty have already expressed interest and gratitude around the project.

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“I’m hoping it’ll have a good impact on the campus, but mostly on Black women. Our focus is for Black women to learn, to grow and to heal in this predominantly white space,” Hold said. “And then for our allies to see this work and to change the kind of ways that they behave towards us.”

The Black Feminist Manifesto release party will be on Oct. 27.

Collegian Managing Editor Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick can be reached at managingeditor@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.

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