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Aiken native, now at Harvard, creates project to shine light on treatment of Black women

Samantha Fletcher took what started as a school project and turned into a movement, centered around the treatment of Black women.

Fletcher, a Black woman and Aiken native who graduated from Aiken High School and now is attending Harvard Graduate School of Education, recently hosted a two-part event including a screening called "Black Women: Juxtaposition of Centering vs. their Erasure" and a panel discussion the following day.

At the end of the course titled "Say Her Name: Gender, Race and Punishment from Tituba to Breonna Taylor," students were required to write an essay or create a podcast on synthesizing what was learned throughout the semester.

Fletcher decided she wanted to create what she called a PodPaign, a combination of a podcast and campaign.

“I want people to really think about how they are treating and interacting with Black women. Once you finish hearing the different perspectives and the benefits of the results of Black women’s work, along with hearing the fact that in so many ways Black women are dismissed, just think about what roles do they have in perpetuating those things,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher has experience with podcasts; she hosts on the Daily Border Crossing podcast. She also was interested in doing a campaign and came up with a PodPaign.

Fletcher also started the hashtag #ustoo to tie into her project, to focus more on Black women.

“When the #metoo movement was popular, even though Black women started the hashtag, I felt like it was blowing up and not centering us enough,” Fletcher said.

For this PodPaign, Fletcher chose to focus on how Black women are erased and how if people chose to focus and support Black women, it can benefit everyone, not just Black people. The PodPaign showcased women from different backgrounds whose experience was dismissed. 

“There’s all of these times where supporting Black women is beneficial to Black women, but so many other people,” Fletcher said. “If so many people can benefit by movements that we want to push or things we want to get done, then why do we keep getting erased? Why do we keep getting dismissed? Why do we keep being not listened to?”

Fletcher said the director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging for Harvard Graduate School of Education found out about her project and she said, "Oh my goodness, we should showcase this. I think this is great work, and we should do a screening of it and a panel discussion."

Throughout the PodPaign, Fletcher interviewed different people, and there was also a panel discussion on the topics discussed in the screening. Topics discussed were health, law, technology, microaggressions, appropriations, trauma, sex, race and gender.

“As a white man, cisgender, heterosexual, documented, employed, homeowner, sometimes it’s hard for me to see how liberation – when it comes to race – can liberate me as well," said Jonathan Fichter, an academic technology coordinator. "In a lot of ways, things are looking pretty good; at the same time, by listening to Black women, I can see how important it is to change and be a part of change."

LaShyra Nolen is the first Black woman to be student president of Harvard Medical School and was one of the panelists.

“I think that I am a great advocate for antiracism and social justice, but I do not believe that my people were put on this world to help people understand why we deserve to exist and thrive,” Nolen said.

Nolen gave many examples of how Black women are treated differently and have more health issues due to microaggressions and being dismissed or ignored.

When referring to the book "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents" by Isabel Wilkerson, Nolen explained the more you interface with the "caste system" as a reminder of where you are in the "caste system," those who are middle income and faced with that realization more frequently, are more likely to have worse health outcomes because it causes more stress.

“What she showed in this study is it was actually folks in this middle income, who not because of access, but because they interfaced more with the realization that no matter how much money they make, etc., in their workspaces constantly being reminded through microaggressions all accumulate and they have this chronic effect on our health and therefore those individuals are more likely to have a higher risk for those chronic diseases,” Nolen said.

Fletcher compared microaggressions to paper cuts and said, nobody sees paper cuts, but they hurt.

“There is something cruel and unjust in the way that we constantly think of Black women as able to save the day when America needs her, but to be ignored otherwise,” said Ekow Yankah, who practices and teaches law with a moral philosophy and was one of Fletcher’s guest on the PodPaign.

Fletcher said she put a lot of work into this project and is honored that she was able to share it. She spent many nights pulling all-nighters to complete this project, she said.

She had around 50 people in attendance on both nights of the event with many people participating in the chat. 

Fletcher's PodPaign can be found on YouTube under Say Her Name: Centering vs. Erasure of Black Women Harvard grad school podcast PodPaign #ustoo.  


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