“What media do you consume, what books do you read and who are you following? That was the first message of my Black Lives Matter video series and I have to believe that if people had more exposure to the black experience in America that their hearts wouldn’t be so hardened and their ears wouldn’t be tuned out to the noise of we can’t breathe. I have to believe that,” said Elise Michaux, who is the director of student involvement and leadership at Seton Hill University.
Michaux has been an activist for the Black Lives Matter movement through her video series on Instagram as well as the Sounds About White group. Her co-hosts for the group are Ari Alex, who is a Pittsburgh based blogger and activist and Jess Mann, who is the assistant vice president for community engagement at Duquesne University.
“Seeing injustices as a black woman at 31 continue in this country is exhausting,” Michaux said. “As an educator what I know how to do best is educate others, so I thought of the people within my circle with whom I trust and respect and think they bring valid points to the conversation.”
During their conversations, the Sounds About White group have discussed topics such as media representation, white privilege, implicit bias, gender roles, making a voting plan and defunding the police. The topics for each week are decided based on what was highlighted during the prior conversation. The group also supplies supplemental readings for the conversations, linked on their social media.
“We encourage people to read the linked text before they attend the conversations,” said Michaux. “Again, being educators and nerds we provide well written articles that supplement the conversation that we’re going to have for that week. So come having read that like class and we talk about it.”
Michaux also has a video series on her personal Instagram account where she encourages people to be the difference and make a change supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Currently she has five episodes published in her series.
“Never did I think that I would have to be Rosa. I am, and so it was either complain on Facebook or try to be someone who uses her platform to share her heart and hopefully resonate with white folks to understand why we’re tired and why we can’t breathe,” Michaux said.
Michaux recently celebrated five years of working at Seton Hill university this past August. She stated on her Instagram post, “for me, it’s not about longevity, but more so about the impact and what we’ve accomplished during that time that’s gratifying.”
Through her involvement with students, Michaux has been able to create a space where students are able to discuss recent events and topics that matter to them.
“What I hope to encourage people to do is to do the work online and to challenge family members and friends when you hear things that aren’t quite okay. By providing workshops and outlets people can see okay, E was or is someone who has worked to be the difference and attempted to allow students to engage in this work no matter where they are in their journey,” Michaux said.
Michaux started both the video series and the Sounds About White group during this past summer in June and July and plans on continuing her series throughout the year.
“I think the video series are for everyone but this is the same old song and dance for black folks, so it is meant to reach the audience that is not used or has no other way to have access to hearing the black experience,” Michaux said.
The Sounds About White group currently meets on Tuesdays at 8:30 PM on Zoom and on Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on Instagram. They recently announced that the group will be streaming to Facebook live.
“Because the conversations are so long and I’m busy, the way we do it right now is we share that the Zoom is happening and record the zoom. We’re looking to put it on Youtube, Spotify and Apple Music, so that it’s like a podcast. But right now, it’s just our Instagram with clips from the Zoom and the Instagram live,” Michaux said.
On September 14 the event Diversity 101 with Deron Jackson will take place virtually from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. This event will give attendees an introduction to diversity, to help them better understand the diversity of the world. The link to the online event can be found on the event’s Shine page.
Published by: Mikaela Fitzpatrick