On October 21st, the Collegiate 100 Women (C100) of Alcorn State University (ASU) hosted a “mask off” panel via Zoom. The event was planned in order to have an open discussion about black women having to wear a “mask” in work and social settings in order to fit societal norms.
The event started with an open discussion about code switching. In this discussion, different participants put into their own words what code switching meant to them. Participants also gave some examples of code switching that they had personally endured in work and social settings.
Participant Cierra Dennis stated, “I feel like I have to code switch because in certain rooms you can not authentically be yourself. Not saying it’s right, but we have to play the game.”
The discussion then progressed to discuss how code switching can have an affect on black women. Participants shared that because they have to code switch in different settings, it felt as if they were wearing different masks. Participants also shared that code switching in the workplace, because they are black women, can lead to their work being tiring and unenjoyable.
“Code switching puts us black women in a box. They [society] say do this and do that or you won’t be able to accomplish anything,” said participant Madison Gray.
After the discussion, a video was played of author Luvie Ajayi. In the video, Ajayi was encouraging black women to speak out and be comfortable with the uncomfortable. After the video, some of the event’s panelists, the 94th Miss ASU Taea Jackson and Miss Junior 2021-2022 Jamyia Crowder, offered some words of encouragement to participants. They encouraged them to be the change that they wanted to see in work and social settings.
“Wear the mask, don’t let it wear you. Live with confidence. People are just going to have to accept it,” said Crowder.
The event concluded with some positive tips for participants which were, stay true to yourself, think highly of yourself while remaining humble, show confidence, speak up for what you believe in, support your people, know your worth, and get used to being comfortable.
C100 plans to host more events such as the “mask off” panel which will continue to empower, elevate, and equip black women at ASU.