ROCKET: What is your response to the celebration for the 100 years of women?
Ka’myia Gunn: I wanted more. While I admire the focus on womanhood, I believe that this celebration pays little attention to the diverse narratives of distinct communities at the College. Instead, all women are lumped together to support a cause. In doing so, the celebration overshadows the fact that for 50 or so years, White women were the only female members on campus. Additionally, I find that many of the semester’s events were closed off to undergraduate students, which fosters an even greater disconnect to the movement. When compared to last year’s celebration of 50 years of integration, I immediately notice a difference in motivation and implementation. Dr. McLendon was intentional about educating the campus of its history and creating platforms for underrepresented students. I just want more.
R: What still needs to change in the way William & Mary prioritizes/supports women, especially WOC?
KG: I believe that support and visibility are important for fostering inclusive spaces for women of color on campus. The administration could be more intentional about building and maintaining relationships with multicultural and female-led organizations, which impact significant portions of William and Mary women.
R: What measures can William & Mary take to make campus a more inclusive community for POC, especially WOC?
KG: Next semester (and the latter half of the year’s activities in celebration of “100 Years of Women”) should be dedicated to highlighting different female communities on campus such as Black women, Asian American women, and Latina women. It would do some good to emphasize the many ways and many fields that women have excelled in (i.e. STEM, performing arts, and athletics just to name a few).
R: What are some things you do on campus that you think make the environment a more inclusive one?
KG: I strive to say hi to everyone I see, especially to students, staff, and faculty who look like me. This gesture symbolizes that “I see you” and that “you are valued.” It’s not easy being here, but it is possible. By the same token, it is easy to feel isolated and unworthy. I try to raise hope and overturn the negative thoughts by being a voice of support. Additionally, I am the president of the African Cultural Society, an organization that seeks to spread positive awareness about Africa and the African Diaspora. This organization seeks to build more inclusive spaces on campus by maintaining safe spaces for underrepresented students.
R: Who is someone on campus you look up to, and why? What do they do that you think deserves commending?
KG: I admire Professor Suzette Spencer, a professor in the Africana Studies Department. She taught me about my identity as a Black woman. She showed me the shoulders on which I stand, which include Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Ida B. Wells, my mama, and my grandmother. From my experiences in these courses and our conversations, I further developed confidence in myself. Professor Spencer looks for the gold in her students. She wants every student to shine and she’s not afraid to get in the weeds to do so.