|Randy A. Ovalle|
Hello there, I am Randy Alexander Ovalle and I’m 19 years old. I am your average college student… well, not really because most of my fellow juniors are at least 2 years older than me. I would describe myself as a laid-back type of person. I am not much of a talker. I prefer to observe.
Now let's talk about my upbringing. I was born in the Dominican Republic, moved to New York City when I was 8 years old (right after I finished the 4th grade). In my first five years of living in this country, I struggled quite a bit; my whole life was an adjustment. The thing I struggled with the most was learning the language; learning English is one of the most difficult tasks I've had to endure. At 8 years old, I didn't even get to master my native tongue when I was forced to learn a new one. It really bothered me how people spoke to me like if I was stupid simply because I didn't speak nor understand English. Throughout those first five years, I still managed to keep up my good grades with the help of family members and bilingual teachers. As time passed, I kept improving more and more. I didn't feel comfortable speaking and writing up until my junior year in High School. Even to this day, 10 years later, I am still improving.
I currently attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I am now finishing up my 5th semester. I don’t know what the future holds for me. All I know is that I will continue to evolve into a better version of myself.
Have you ever been in a situation where there is two sides that you are forced to choose from, but you just happen to be stuck in the middle? Shani Jamila’s early life is the perfect example of being an inbetweener in her writing Can I Get a Witness? Testimony from a Hip Hop Feminist. Growing up in a middle class African American family, she often found herself having to be two different people. When she was with her white friends from school, she was one person, and when she was with her less privileged African American family, she had to be another. Jamila found it frustrating that she did not seem to fully belong in either group because she was too white for black people but too black for white people. It was infuriating for her when she was getting accepted into colleges that her white friends were getting rejected from because they were finding excuses for why she got in and they did not. Her white colleagues, people she had thought were friends, were saying that she only got in because of affirmative action, discrediting all of her achievements including both academic and extracurricular ones.
Jamila decided to go to Spelman College (a historically black college with an all woman campus). The fact that going to a historically black college changed her life is truly a beautiful thing, because if she did not attend Spelman College, she would not have become the person she is. She would not have gotten in touch with the black feminist/ activist side of her, she would not have had discussions about gender and race with her peers that made her a better and smarter person.
Jamila was born at around the time Hip Hop was becoming popular in America. Hip Hop influenced a lot of aspects of her life:“My taste in men has also been molded by hip hop aesthetics. I entered my love life interested in brothers who were rocking gumbies like my first boyfriend. As I got older, I discovered my own poetic voice, and I cannot begin to place a value on the amount of inspiration I got from this musical movement and the culture it birthed.” She considers herself a child of the hip hop generation.
Being such a Hip Hop fanatic and also a feminist can be quite contradicting, but Jamila explains herself very well. As we all know Hip Hop can be very misogynistic (degrading to women), where, in videos, we often see women sexual exploited, but Jamila says something very interesting regarding this topic: ”Teaching women not to be sensual and erotic beings, or not to show that we are, is diminishing and subverts the locus of our own uniqueness as females.” Sexuality is not taboo and telling a woman to not be sensual can actually be degrading.
When I read Jamila's arguments against the denigration of sensuality, I saw that that the sexualizing of women in Hip Hop videos can be empowering in a way if women control the discourse more. Jamila gives a different unique perspective when it comes to Hip Hop and women; that is why, for me, she deserves acknowledgement.
Jamila, S. (2002). Can I Get a Witness? Testimony from a Hip Hop Feminist. Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism, 382-394.