Glavin Office Student Spotlight: Melissa Denizard
The student that was showcased on this month’s Student Spotlight is Melissa Denizard…
- Where is your hometown/country? I was born in Mirebalais, Haiti. I now live in Spring Valley, NY.
- What’s one assignment/project that you are currently or working on that you are excited about? Currently, I am working on an independent study along with a film screening and panel event centered on exploring social entrepreneurship in Flint, MI. Through Babson College’s Glavin Global Fellows Program, I traveled to Flint, MI to film a docuseries called, “How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Without Clean Water”; in Flint, I analyzed how and why an American city with a primarily poor Black population was thrust into the Flint Water Crisis. In Flint, I spent time with residents – families, community leaders, and politicians – and interviewed them about their living situation, the city’s current socio-political climate, and their thoughts on how the city will move forward from the Flint Water Crisis and decades of poverty. On February 20th from 5 – 7 PM in Winn Auditorium, I will be showcasing my documentary and hosting a panel featuring three of Flint’s residents. Along with the great conversation this film will ignite about wealth inequity, ageism, social justice, grassroots activism, and social entrepreneurship in the United States, it will also touch upon Flint’s opportunity to utilize social entrepreneurship to accumulate wealth. Then, throughout the semester, I will working on an independent study that will explore the viability of a Babson College sponsored social entrepreneurship program in Flint, MI; my research will later be presented to members of the Babson College community.
- What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time at Babson? During my time at Babson, I am most proud of the expansion of my social justice efforts and continuing to advocate against the contemporary state of race, gender, and social class within the United States framework. So far, I have led forums and events, launched my personal website, given a TEDx Talk on sexual violence in the service industry, completed two documentaries, written blog posts, and released educational videos. In 2018, my YouTube video, Unbraid with Me: Is Hair Political? was featured on Refinery29 and Brut Media. In that same year, I was awarded first place by Babson College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Day for Diversity and Exclusion, a spoken word piece on diversity and inclusion in academia. Academically, I also wrote a 17-paged research paper that analyzed Babson College’s current diversity and inclusion policies and suggested new recruitment methods to increase the matriculation of Black students. Lastly, I was also accepted into the Young People For social justice fellowship, which has changed my life immensely.
- Within the Babson community, is there anyone/any group of people you would like to recognize? I always say that the Glavin Office is one of the best places at Babson College. In my first year at Babson, I was discouraged by the lack of diversity and inclusion and social justice efforts on campus. I also quickly noticed the campus’ discomfort with discussing racial disparities and therefore, forced myself to speak less about the topic in classrooms. When I worked in the Glavin Office in Summer ’18, I blossomed amongst the workers; it was the first time I had seen a team of people passionate about and dedicated to leading efforts on increasing diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. That summer, I realized how important it is for me to showcase my authentic self, regardless of where I am. I also want to recognize Dr. Alana Anderson for always serving as a lighthouse and ray of sunshine for me; I truly value our relationship, the laughs we’ve shared, shade we’ve thrown, and advice she’s given.
- How has your identity affected the way you interact with other people? Has it ever held you back? Has it ever given you an advantage? I have been documenting my journey with activism since I was fourteen years old; as a Black woman, I’ve realized that people will often try to vilify me for speaking out against injustices. More overtly stated, it sounds like: why are you so angry? More discrete, it sounds like: I see you just did your angry Black woman thing up there. Or it manifests as angry stares and social isolation. Throughout the process of reconciling with my anger, I’ve learned that most people will try to rewrite my story; will try to silence me rather than put effort into listening to me speak; will call me a liar rather than face my/the truth head on. And if I’m not careful, they’ll succeed; they’ll strip me of my dignity and render all the work I’ve done worthless. And because I am aware of that possibility, I am constantly having to navigate through minefields while still making an effort to authentically speak about my experiences and advocate against injustice.
- In what ways have you been able to assimilate your identity into the Babson community? I don’t think I have been successful at assimilating my identity into the Babson community. I have long known that most activism makes people uncomfortable. So, I have used that discomfort to challenge people to think more about and challenge the status quo.