Makayla Binter ‘20
Writing this article is something I was both excited and nervous about. I was excited to share my perspective on what the Mural Panel Project has done and how it has changed my experience at Davidson for the better. I was also nervous because, I mean, they’re panels… that sometimes get written on.
As I entered my senior year and was closing in on completing this project, I was so nervous! I was not sure how people would react to them. Would the idea come across? Would people even engage with them? Would a week go by and nothing be written? I was scared that creativity and art would be stifled by the Davidson grind: students competing to figure out who is the busiest and others trying to fit another meeting in before that other meeting (me, I’m others).
But, within the first day, I saw so much chalk and writing. People, you, classmates, peers, and community members actually wrote on the panels. Granted, at first, they were rather nonsensical. I hope your Instagram @’s, hashtags, and public displays of affection through “this person loving this person” gained the attention they sought. I hope Dale 315 got what they were looking for. I hope that people were satisfied with crossing out eyes, coloring in lips, and drawing mustaches.
At first, I was angry. The murals were not a place of fun and akikikis. I wanted people to engage and dig deeper into the meaning that went behind each image and each calculated decision that came from our own archives, photographs, text, and illustrations — history embedded within the bricks we learn in each day.
I created this project in the face of neo-Nazis being removed from campus a little over a year ago. I thought that we as a student body, and more openly a Davidson College community, were, and still are, too fast in moving on from blatant forms of racist and ignorant actions because the next day there are more classes, more readings, and more meetings. I was looking for the chance to open the floor for reconciliation and acknowledgement to the entire student body. What does racism look like at Davidson? How has language surrounding economic status affected you? These larger conversations go just beyond the people that are directly affected by them; they involve the whole community because we all have a piece to play in making this community what we boast it is, “inclusive.”
Many responses were words of affirmation, “It’s ok to not be ok,” “Human-kind, be both,” “Love yourself.” Others held more weight as they connected with my identity on campus more directly: “Being a Black woman on campus is very isolating”, “non-black people saying the n-word”. The intriguing part about the last one is people crossing out non-black people and writing “ANYONE.”
I was intrigued and surprised at the responses given across the panels. This project was a calling — an opportunity to convey history and experiences through visualization and imagery. Art is subjective. I will never have the same experience as someone else looking at the panels. That is what drives the conversation and incorporates new perspectives. I see this project evolving with time and changing shape to fit the needs of our community or any community it is in. It’s just a matter of if we, as a college, are willing to change and grapple with the history that is stored within our walls, our books, and our records.
I challenge you, whoever you are, to take it a step further. Take the Disorientation Tour. Read the Microaggressions Project website. Go to that ~multicultural~ conversation. Sit and engage. Do something with the experiences students of color are giving you on campus; because this is not for us.
Makayla Binter ‘20 is a Biology and Studio Art Double Major from Rochester, NY.