Nuanced Griot highlights and shares black experiences

Spurred by the desire to build community and establish networks through meaningful, open and honest conversations on black experiences, Nuanced Griot: Community Conversations was born.

Nuanced Griot: Community Conversations is a collaborative effort between Stella-Marie Akindayomi, academic counselor in the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, and Aris Hall, director of the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center. The program highlights and shares black experiences while educating and empowering students.

The spring quarter conversations happen Tuesdays at 3 p.m. via the cultural center’s Instagram Live account or on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

The initiative grew out of the Super Soul Tuesdays programs, which began in the fall at the Black Cultural Center and moved to remote sessions spring quarter. Super Soul Tuesdays were initiated to provide holistic student support and development for UO black students. The idea for the Black Cultural Center to also host casual conversations with students on varying themes came up during discussions of the program with Associate Dean of Students Marcus Langford.

Hall and Akindayomi met winter term to consider the program and what to call it. According to Hall, “After a few minutes, Akindayomi, blurted out, ‘Nuanced Griot!’” A griot, pronounced gree-oh, is a West African orator charged with maintaining and preserving history and tradition.

“While black people share commonalities, our lived experiences are nuanced,” Hall said.

In an effort to engage UO members remotely, Hall and Akindayomi launched the initiative spring quarter not only for students but also for faculty and staff members to converse with one another. They began the program during week two and felt their first topics should be relevant to the current climate. In the premier episode they introduced themselves to the community via Instagram Live and encouraged students to tune in and submit questions.

They have had three programs since their premier: “See My Intersections: Black and Queer” with  Samm Martin, community director, University Housing; “Academic Policies and You: Awareness, Advocacy and Action” with Will Hatchett, academic adviser; and “Healthy Relationships: Mind, Body and Soul” with Nikki Chery, black and African American student specialist, and Anjali Dhar, senior staff therapist, both from the UO Counseling Center; and Alexis Drakatos, UO substance abuse prevention coordinator.

All are welcome to the weekly Nuanced Griot on the Black Cultural Center’s Instagram Live account and on Zoom during spring quarter and in person when campus reopens. Check the Black Cultural Center’s Instagram account or website to find out the topic for the next event or other events sponsored by the cultural center.

—By tova stabin, University Communications