Gloria Kimbulu

Gloria is passionate about issues relating to Congo, immigration, mental health, black women, race relations, sexuality, spirituality, intersectional feminism, and womanism.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading books and writing.

I have two younger sisters and my dad said that out of us three, I was the only one who didn’t write or color in books growing up. Instead, I would pretend I knew how to read and wrote from an early age.

In fifth grade I won my school’s essay contest, and the following year I won a poetry contest. For the first contest I wrote about why I loved my neighborhood. For the second, I wrote about my mom.

In high school I was the assistant editor of the school newspaper and I started out college as a journalism major. I knew I was good at writing; it made me happy and I wanted to utilize my abilities in a way that could help others. I was sure that I wanted to be some sort of news reporter or foreign correspondent.  

Journalism did not work out for me, though.

I switched to advertising and public relations for the sake of staying enrolled in my school’s journalism school. But sophomore year– the year I started learning how to love my blackness– writing started to become a form of self care. No longer did I care to ramble on about the boys I had crushes on; there were more important matters to articulate. Like why my anger is valid.

I started taking blogging more seriously last semester, and all of my poems have either been about my feelings, depression, or my experiences being a Black woman. The people reading my work were predominantly those with shared experiences or simply people I knew and their support validating how I felt beyond the words on my blog.

This semester I started writing for my school newspaper and although I have only written three articles, I have learned a lot about being a Black writer for a white publication. I knew that writing about race at a predominantly white institution (PWI) would come with backlash, but I did not realize that I would feel invalidated by people on the staff.

For my first article I wrote about how the traditional Greek system perpetuates misogyny and racism and the article was not published on social media in order to “minimize hate” as my opinion editor put it. Additionally, the Editor-in-Chief and opinion editor decided to not inform me about this.

I did not understand why it was a problem of having disagreements or any other sort of backlash about my article. I asked if it could be published the following day and the opinion editor said that the article was ‘too old’ to be published.

I felt like I was being silenced simply because of my content. I was then told, “Well even without the article being shared you still got the most views this week!” as if that is what I cared about. By not publishing the article on social media, I felt like those who needed it the most would not see it.

With my second article I talked about the invalidation of people of color and the next day, someone published an article on why he did not support Kaepernick. In the article he even said, “give me one example of the government treating blacks in a negative way.”

It was very disheartening to see someone writing a blatantly racist article while I was silenced for writing about something controversial when my goal was to increase inclusivity on campus. The editor also admitted to not even checking the source he cited and I let her know that it is not a credible news source. I also told her that it’s important that if people are going to write about race, someone of that race should be proofreading what they say.

When I wrote an article on allyship my editor disapproved of me capitalizing ‘Black’ and then later said that she was okay bending the rules this one time. Although I did not expect her to understand why it was important for me to capitalize Black as a Black woman, I was still frustrated that she thought AP rules were more important than my feelings on an opinion piece.

I made the mistake of airing my frustrations about this on Twitter and my editor called me in and said that by doing so I was being unprofessional and making the publication and myself look bad. Although I aired the frustrations with the person who inspired me to capitalize Black, it was still on my timeline so it was public.

I know I probably should not have done that but I don’t understand how doing that makes the publication look bad while someone expressing how racism does not exist doesn’t.

I’ve learned that writing for a predominately white publication means you are constantly going to be challenged and you have to be willing to challenge those who work for the publication.

I chose to write for Oblivion because I know that I am going to be surrounded by writers of color. I know that I won’t be silenced or invalidated and that those editing my articles will “get it.” After the second article for my school publication I was ready to quit. But writing is something I love and I knew I couldn’t let what happened take the best of me. I look forward to writing for Oblivion because I think writers of color are so important in a world where our histories are whitewashed and our voices are constantly silenced.

By Gloria Kimbulu

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