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Nov 19 2016
by Taylor Lang

Eastern Michigan University Student Takes On The Appropriation Of Black Culture With Class Project

By Taylor Lang - Nov 19 2016
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Taylor Amari Little, a freshman majoring in Criminal Justice at Eastern Michigan University, used her communications project to speak about the appropriation of black culture and continue her bold love of education and activism.

Little identifies with she/her/hers pronouns, but also doesn't mind they/them/theirs. She identifies as a cisgender queer Black woman, who also identifies as Muslim and a Nichiren Buddhist. She honors her ancestors with traditional African faith. Little believes it is important for her to mention how she identifies in most spaces.

Twitter @MissTayAmari

The presentation assignment from her professor was open-ended: present a persuasive speech on a topic of your choice. Little told Fresh U over Twitter DMs that she decided to go above and beyond to educate her classmates on what she is passionate about.

"Some people did theirs on topics like why you should donate blood and why you should buy organic," she said. "But I’m just too extra and loved my Blackness too much to let this opportunity slide without educating people about material that is considered controversial."

Little focused her project on how many parts of mainstream culture are actually the appropriation of black culture, such as 'teen slang' and 'teen dance crazes.' She also focused on how African American Vernacular English came to be, what it is, and why it isn't 'improper' english.

You can see her whole speech below.

Little told Fresh U how her professor and classmates responded to her speech.

"As soon as everyone saw my first slide, a lot of their mouths dropped," she said. "They were all quite caught off guard, some uncomfortable and others intrigued. I didn’t really know exactly how my professor would react, but she was actually one of the only white people smiling and laughing, that I saw anyway. When I was done, two people of color came up to me and asked if I noticed one of the white girls in the audience constantly looking around during the presentation in shock and disbelief. It made me happy and appreciative that I was able to help and bring joy and laughter to other people of color. I live for that because I know it is healing. I saw some mad white faces in the audience, too. But once class was over, a few white people who I did not expect to enjoy my presentation came up to me and told me that they learned a lot and enjoyed it. I was grateful for that."

On top of her controversial subject matter, Little also wore a 'Make America Brown Again' shirt that she had gotten off of the ProxyProphet's store on Etsy. You can buy the shirt for $15. One of the founders even reached out to Little to thank and reward her for bringing them such publicity.

When Little was giving her presentation, she knew that it would be difficult for some of her classmates to listen to her with an open mind and hear her out.

"I know that many times during the presentation, I was quite blunt and straightforward, but that is how I like to be," she told Fresh U. "Y’all are going to listen to me and every word I say and get this education, just like I had to listen to Eurocentric lessons my whole life in school. But the difference is that the education led by me is beneficial for everyone, whereas Eurocentric education is not. Whitewashed lessons will never lead to a fair and quality education for ALL students. Education that centers marginalized people and inspires empathy will."

Outside of the classroom, Little is the chair of the Youth Committee of Black Lives Matter Detroit. The purpose of the committee is "to disrupt the teachings of all oppressive ideologies among Black youth and serves to uplift all Black youth by providing safe spaces to learn various methods of healing, for youth voice, leadership, and organizing."

Queer Ummah is an international visibility project that Little runs that focuses on the experiences of the LGBTQ+ Muslims around the world. You can look at the project below.

Little is a big activist on Twitter, centering around anti-oppression of people of color, who she says experience the most violence in society. She is an activist for other minorities, too. You can follow her on Twitter to see her tweets for yourself.

Little has gotten a lot of reactions from people on Twitter. Some good, and some very threatening.

"My block button has become a good friend of mine, especially after the picture that went viral appeared on Reddit and white supremacists and Trump supporters saw," she told Fresh U. "But either way, I like hearing people’s comments for the most part. It’s been a large amount of positive feedback from people of color, very few positive comments from white people, and a lot of negative comments from other white people. After that, I really began to receive a lot of threats, ableist and racist insults, comments telling me that I should be expelled immediately, that I should kill myself, and so forth. However, I feel more desensitized to the threats and insults. The more visible I become on social media platforms as an activist and a bold student, the more white conservatives AND liberals try to get rid of me and verbally abuse me."

Growing up, Little and her mom have moved around a lot. She considers Detroit her home, though. Her family members are not big activists like she is, but they support her and what she stands for, although they are sometimes afraid for her safety.

"Many of them see pictures of me in articles and my posts on social media and they’re proud of me, but also worried that I’ll get into serious trouble," she told Fresh U. "Especially my mother. She’s always telling me to not forget about why I’m in college in the first place and to avoid losing my scholarship and going to jail. I hope to continue making them proud, not only as an activist in the world fighting for what I believe in and educating others, but also as a determined first-generation college student."

Fresh U would like to congratulate Little for standing up for what she believes in, being bold, and taking risks. In the worlds of Little's biggest mentor:

“We are layers, not fractions." -Kim Katrin Milan

Lead Image Credit: Twitter

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Taylor Lang - Syracuse University

Taylor is a Broadcast and Digital Journalism Major at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She started writing and editing as a freshman for Fresh U. From there, she began to help create and expand the News and Multimedia Departments. When not doing something relating to journalism, she LOVES Disney and reading while sipping hot tea. She hopes to inspire others to follow their passions and do what makes them happy.

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