Spotlight on Senate: Introducing Darielle Kennedy

Dear Oberlin College Community,  

My name is Darielle Kennedy (she/her/hers). I am a third-year College student here at Oberlin and was recently elected to be your Student Senator. I am majoring in Law and Society and Comparative American Studies with a concentration on identity and diversity. Shortly after being elected to Senate, I created an auxiliary position for Race Relations and Equity Liaison with the help of Jasmine Mitchell. I am able to pursue my education at Oberlin with the help of the Posse Scholarship, which is a leadership based scholarship that promotes diversity on predominantly white campuses. The reason why this position is important to me on an individual level is because I am a Black woman and a low-income student from the south-side of Chicago. I am the child of a single-parent mother who is currently raising 3 children by herself. I am a child of an incarcerated parent who is currently serving a life-sentence in prison. 

The objective of this role is to illuminate the experiences of students who are oppressed because of their race and other intersectional identities. Learning about oppression, injustice, and inequity through textbooks and statistics is only one piece of the puzzle, so this role aims to create platforms for communal discourse that will empower students to teach throughout their testimonies. More than courageous conversations, we want to promote action via policy changes. This role aims to address anti-blackness and other forms of racism socially, academically, and institutionally. This role will also involve community engagement where anti-blackness, poverty, injustice, and inequity are present. The creation of this position addresses the lack of enrollment, acceptance, and accessibility for low-income POC to matriculate to Oberlin, including town locals and students with incarcerated parents. 

I know racial, systemic, and institutional injustice very well because my life has been connected to it since my birth. When I started Oberlin, my life experiences did not simply disappear. Instead, they transferred to my academic settings. In most of my courses, I was studying people like me, but I was not surrounded by people like me. People like me rarely make it to places like Oberlin. On a collective level, I want my role to address how racism and other forms of oppression affects the way students live and learn at Oberlin. I want their experiences to be illuminated, acknowledged, and addressed on an institutional level. Race relations and intersectional oppression influence how students learn and what they internalize both academically and socially, so it remains crucial for Oberlin to address these systems. 

At this time, we need to be empowered, guided, and supported by our facility, staff, and students to influence impactful change. I know I will not be doing this alone; my role is very collaborative, and I want other students to be comfortable enough to lead me and others while this work is being done. Student senate and other organizations have some great ideas in the works to create spaces to facilitate courageous conversations and demands that will beget transformational action for oppressed communities. Right now, me and the other senators are creating an event to facilitate discussion about the Breonna Taylor verdict. We are inviting the Oberlin community to join this conversation; however, we are asking that Black women lead this discussion and highlight their own experiences of intersectional oppression about racial violence (whether physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, or structural) that they have endured. The goal of this project is to let the Black women on campus know that as a community, we acknowledge that the Breonna Taylor verdict was heartbreaking and dehumanizing and that Breonna Taylor’s name deserves to be uplifted. So do the names of Black women on this campus. Additionally, we want to have Black women who are on faculty or staff to help provide leadership, guidance, and support during this event. 

In closing,  I would like to thank: everyone who voted for me, the A-House community for promoting me, and the #BlackoutSenate movement for influencing a massive voter turnout. I believe the mission of #BlackoutSenate was to have more Black leaders on campus at a time where anti-blackness is rampant, evidenced by ongoing police brutality and the pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities and disparities that Black people face. I would also like to thank the organizations that support me: The Posse Organization, Oberlin College Research Fellowship (OCRF), the Peer Support Center, and the Bridging the Gap Fellowship. Words are not enough to express my gratitude for you all. The entire election was transformational. I never imagined that I would go to college, let alone be on Student Senate. 

Thank you, 

Darielle Kennedy