Guest Blog – – What it Meant to Me

Today, the blog post I am sharing is written by graduating senior Sasha Estrella-Jones, who recently had the opportunity to travel to Cuba. She reflects on her trip and the implications that it held for her, and shares some of her beautiful photos. Enjoy!!


Sasha Francisca Estrella-Jones  –  Guest Blogger

What it Meant to Me

As a bi-racial, Latina who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York transitioning to life in Athens has been interesting to say the least. While the past four years I have made Ohio University a home away from home, there are still times when as a woman of color I feel isolated in a sea of over 20,000 Bobcats. It could be the tone in my voice and my outspoken nature, the big gold or silver hooped earrings one can usually spot me wearing around campus, the fact that it is no longer 2005 but I still like my lips glossed up 24/7, the Soca and Raggaeton that I blast from my car speakers, or simple things like my name- professors still fail to correctly pronounce my last name. Quick Spanish lesson, two L’s make a y sound so it is pronounced Estreya though written Estrella. Even as a senior, one of the things I still miss most about home are seeing women with looks and mannerisms like me.

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With that said and the brutal winter cold in full effect, what better place could there have been to spend spring break than in Cuba. Yes, Cuba. The largest island in the Caribbean that’s known for its cigars, rum, vintage cars, music, baseball, and last but by no means least the United States embargo that lasted over 50 years. While I did smoke cigars in Cuba, enjoy a number of delicious mojitos, took a taxi ride in a 50’s Chevy, heard Spanish and Afro-Caribbean music everywhere I went, saw college students playing a baseball game, and spoke to Cubans about life through the “Special Period”, Cuba was much more than that.

For me, Cuba meant being the standard the beauty and loving myself a little bit more. Let me preface this by saying I did not stay in Cuba long enough, nor talk to enough Cuban women to fully understand what the Cuban standard of beauty is. Rather, this is written from the perspective of being in a space that was not dominated by ideas and images of white, European beauty standards. Standards that feel and are unattainable for women like me. In Cuba my thighs, breasts, hips, lips, and butt could not be big enough. I was not body shamed for being shapely and voluptuous or for having stretch marks and cellulite. Having blonde hair and blue eyes did not equate to being any sort of “dream girl” and my curls were appreciated, instead of being asked to be tamed and straightened. I could be myself. I felt beautiful, because I did not have to look like anyone or anything else to be considered attractive by society.

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While not downplaying the importance and necessity of self-love, self-validation, and self-confidence, being in a society that appreciated my beauty was refreshing. It was a foreign feeling and it was foreign, because still too often in America women of color are sexually fetishized, hyper-sexualized, while simultaneously still viewed as inferior to white women and not truly a part of the beauty standards we have in our country. It becomes more and more challenging to internalize that you are beautiful, even when want to feel like you are, when the society you are a part of is content with making you odd girl out. To Cuba, from an American, I’d like to say thank you for allowing me to celebrate and love the woman I am that much more. I hope my country is taking notes on how to create more inclusive standards of beauty.

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Remember the Ladies

As a grad student, I took multiple courses in Women’s/Feminist Studies. I was fascinated by the content and still am. One lesson I learned is particularly meaningful today – the letter Abigail Adams, the future First Lady, wrote to her husband, John Adams, and other members of the Continental Congress to not forget about the nation’s women when fighting for America’s independence from Great Britain. Dated March 31, 1776, Mrs. Adams wrote “…I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” 

Remember the ladies is a haunting precursor to what is currently happening in our society over 240 years later. The tyrant has many faces – power, greed, exclusion, inequality, pay inequity and the loss of civil rights. On Saturday over 2 million women took to the streets in small towns, county seats, large metropolitan cities and numerous international countries. These women came together in peace, united for a cause. With inclusion at the forefront, all members of society were encouraged to attend, representing a broad swath of humanity, the participants marched, spoke, sang and urged the world to “Remember the Ladies.”  I am positive any words I write, cannot have the visible impact that was seen on Saturday. Regardless of one’s beliefs it was powerful to see so many men, women, children, teens, college students, lesbians, gays, transgender, physically challenged, underrepresented populations, majority, minority, international, Hollywood stars, politicians, wealthy, poor and common everyday people, come together to give a message of respect, inclusion and equality for women and to hear women’s voices. The directive was clear when one group is oppressed, we are all oppressed.

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So today, tomorrow and forever we Remember the Ladies…(Thank you Mrs. Adams!).

Dr. King’s Legacy

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion diversified the annual Dr. King Celebration brunch and delighted the masses! This year was not the usual lecture with time for Q&A, it was a major departure from the typical program. The Singing Sensations Youth Choir of Baltimore, Maryland honored the legacy of Dr. King through music and song. This 56 member choir comprised of youth ranging in ages from 5-18, under the direction of Dr. Hollie Hood-Mincey, sang the roof off of Baker Center with harmonies and melodies that had the entire room up on their feet for the majority of the concert. The performance was electrifying, emotions were evident in eyes filled with wonder and joy over the sheer beauty of the performances.  At one point I was able to witness two of our academic deans out on the dance floor grooving to the beat. Reverend Dr. King was after all a Baptist minister, he grew up in the church, Gospel music is testament to his legacy. This Dr. King holiday we did what Dr. King would have desired-we came together and celebrated as one united Bobcat family!

A special thanks to the leadership of:

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Phi Chapter
Dr. Winsome Chunnu-Brayda
The MLK Jr., Celebration Planning Committee

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is a must see movie! In fact, I have seen it three times since its opening on January 5th.  This story at its very core is about passion — the passion Americans had to win in a two country Space Race, and the passion these extraordinary black women possessed to succeed professionally despite the racism and sexism faced daily against them in the early 60s. It is about the intensity of Colonel John Glenn and his desire to put America first in space. It is about NASA’s fervor to be the best. Hidden Figures rolls into its 1 hour and 57-minute time frame bold lessons on diversity, gender equality, human resources, corporations, STEM, human rights, education and social justice.

The courageous sass displayed by these three women, in always graceful tones but with clear messages that urge the viewer to listen and understand this unfathomable, inequitable plight is impressive. The hutzpah, the belief and heroic self-esteem demonstrated are lessons all Bobcats should learn!

The champions of right-embodied in Al Harrison and Colonel Glenn-allow us to cheer and applaud, that there really are those who understood the struggle and simply believed in excellence that transcended race and gender-whatever your packaging might be.

The triumph of brilliance and sheer determination wins, however the question we must all ask ourselves — How smart; how extraordinary must one be to simply fit in with the ordinary and to forge your rightful place in society without the isms being always present?

Hidden Figures will make you contemplate, reflect, dream and hopefully open your mind to all life’s positive possibilities. Hidden Figures will make you proud.

Hidden Figures is based on:
Katherine G. Johnson
Dorothy Vaughan
Mary Jackson

January 2017

January is usually a time to reflect on the past year. The lessons learned, celebrations that occurred and the not so happy events that took place in our lives. But with the onset of a New Year, our thoughts move  forward with eyes toward the future. The chapters have yet to be written. The pages are blank. Diaries and journals are empty. This January will see the inauguration of the 45th President for the United States, Donald J. Trump. After a contentious campaign season fraught with incredible ugliness,  January brings the hope of renewal to America. It is time to heal the divide that has been demonstrated in the diversity of the nation-Democrat vs. Republican, Male vs. Female, Rural vs. Urban, Working class vs Middle class. Diversity has been the central focus of this past election. Although never stated, diversity has been seen in its many forms. At the core of this inauguration is a call for finding common interest, concern for all humanity and respect for the values that define society.  As I look forward, I am hopeful that America renews its brilliance which has always been in the strength of the American people in coming together as one nation with global concern for all.