Against the Current: Collective works on State Violence, identity and Resistance

The Layers of Our Existence: A Mini Exhibition on the Voices of Women of Color at Penn

By: Brianna Vizcaino

This project, inspired by the Philadelphia Assembled project at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is a mini exhibition comprised of 5 parts. The major themes focused on are mental health, self-care, sexual violence, and socioeconomic status. 
  1. Part 1: Testimonies
    • Over the course of the semester, I interviewed 8 women of color that are students at the University of Pennsylvania. These were all recorded and clips of each interview are on this page. Brief descriptions are also included. Click here to look at the list of questions that were asked. These questions were intended to tell the wholistic experience of what it really means to be a woman of color at Penn. 
  2. Part 2: Have you been....?
    • The 8 women were asked whether or not they had been sexually violated/harassed/disrespected. For this part, I list their answers along with a gallery of the interviewees. This part is supposed to capture the reality of sexual violence, how common it is, and how specific these experiences are amongst women of color.
  3. Part 3: Proclamations
    • This part is a remaking of a financial aid letter. We came together to rip these papers apart, representing a removal of any financial, emotional, personal limits Penn has placed on them. Instead of the words written by Penn, the proclamations from these women are affirmations of what they will become and what their future holds. There are also short clips of the ripping of these papers.
  4. Part 4: Our Layers, Our Experience
    • This part is a poem made from only the words said in each of the interviews, describing the overall experience of colored women at Penn. The poem is called, The Black Queendom.
  5. Part 5: 10 Point Plan Program Remix ft. The Women of Color at Penn
    • The final part of the project, inspired by the Black Panther's 10 Point Program, will be a set of proclamations of our beliefs, how we fight against what we go through, how we expect to be treated. This is supposed to answer the “What now?” question. These proclamations were made from the answers  of the question "What do we need as women of color? From Penn? From men at Penn?".

As women of color at Penn, we experience something very different and unique to the rest of the student body. What is this experience exactly? What does it mean to be that one Black women no matter what setting you are in? This work attempts to highlight this experience- make known that this experience is different and important. This experience needs a space to be able to be defined in our terms and reclaim what has been defined for us. 

My personal experience at Penn has been detrimental and despite the small percentage of colored women on our campus, there is a shared experience between us. It has been silenced and never given a chance to be expressed. This project has given us a chance to escape what we’ve been forced to deal with  and focus on the layers that make up who we are. This project tells our story.

Important things to note:

* Responses from the interviewees are in the same order on each page (Interviewee A is the same person in each page).
* Images of the interviewees on the page do not correspond to the order of the responses listed.
* Any responses listed as N/A are due to poor recording. Their answers were not able to be heard.

Click below to take a tour of this exhibition:

Part 1: Testimonies 
Part 2: Have you been sexually ____?
Part 3: Proclamations
Part 4: Our Layers, Our Experience
Part 5: 10 Point Plan Remix ft. The Black Women of Penn
Revolutionary: "It's too big, It's too wide, It's too strong, It won't fit"
Freedom: "Call me bulletproof"



“Women of color warriors are constant warriors who dig in bare earth to feed the hungry child, who pray for health the bedside of the sick when there is no medicine, who fashion a toy to make a poor child smile, who take to the streets demanding freedom, freedom, freedom against armed police. Every act of survival by a woman of color is an act of resistance to the holocaust and the war. No soldier fights harder than a woman warrior for she fights for total change, for a new order in a world in which can finally rest and love.” - Barbara Omolade, The Rising Song of African American Women, 1994

“Black women have not focused sufficiently on our need for contemplative spaces. We are often ‘too busy’ to find time for solitude. And yet it is in the stillness that we also learn how to be with ourselves in a spirit of acceptance and peace. Then when we re-enter community, we are able to extend this acceptance to others. Without knowing how to be alone, we cannot know how to be with others and sustain the necessary autonomy.” - bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam, 2005

“The way black women say "girl" can be magical. Frankly, I have no solid beliefs about the survival of consciousness after physical death. But if it's going to happen I know what I want to see after my trek toward the light. I want to see a black woman who will smile and say, "Girl....” – Abigail Padgett, Blue


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