Inspired by similar photo campaigns at Harvard and Oxford, a group of nine students at New York University created the “I, Too, Am NYU” project. With the support of the Black and Brown Coalition and the Asian Pacific-American Collective, these students
have photographed over 150 people with the aim of “highlight[ing] the uncensored faces and voices of students of color at NYU.”
4. On their Facebook page, they list their four primary goals:
1. Empower students of color on campus through uncensored self expression.
2. Assert our belonging to this campus.
3. Contest the micro-aggressions, discrimination, and outright racism that we uniquely experience as students of color.
4. Bring the issues that our communities face, to the attention of the NYU administration.
6. Aisha Abdelmula, one of the organizers of the project, talked to BuzzFeed about the inspiration for the project:
“A lot of us were continuously having these conversations with friends and our peers and thought NYU definitely needs to hear this both formally and publicly. The administration markets of their idea of diversity, but our team felt that it was not a true depiction of our experiences. Once the president of our campus (at a university wide event) said ‘There is no racial majority at NYU.’ A lot of my friends were hurt and angered by this claim. It is not factual and diminishes the experiences many students experience due to the lack of racial and ethnic diversity on our campus. You can take a look at Fall 2012’s enrollment here for evidence.”
9. The project has been met with positive attention but also some critical pushback.
“For sure, when you do a project that exposes the truth, many folks are bound to be critical, namely upset,” Abdelmula explained. The organizers noticed that, In the process of creating their social media accounts, both the Tumblr and Twitter handles they wanted were taken. “We know that this was an act done to hinder our movement,” Abdelmula said. “In fact when you go to them, the Tumblr is empty and the Twitter account has been suspended.”
“People are definitely afraid and upset.”
12. Abdelmula noted that the criticism has come from students of color and white students and that they are working on responding to them.
Folks say that our project is creating a racial divide, that we’re only focusing on white-black binary of oppression, that we don’t show a diverse pool of participants..it goes on. One of the most laughable comments was that we don’t feature LGBTQ people. How would they even know? It came from a White person who may or may not identify as LGBTQ. It came from a place of wanting to take up space in a movement that isn’t made to include this person. There are Queer people who are organizers and participants in the campaign. We’ve invited students of color to express their concerns last Saturday at an open forum and hope to have more events for people to continue this work with us.
15. Ultimately, the “I, Too, Am NYU” project is about sharing these experiences with the aim of creating structural and cultural changes at the university.
In a four-page proposal addressed to university president John Sexton and 17 other administrators, the organizers list a broad set of recommendations for “fostering a more diverse and inclusive educational institution that is open, informed, and engaged regarding issues of race and diversity.” The proposal touches on many aspects of student life including enrollment, recruitment efforts, financial aid, the undergraduate curriculum, faculty training and ways to address the campus climate.