Amanda Seales keynotes BRAVE 2018, discusses art and individuality for black women

March 22, 2018

Students gathered on March 16 to discuss black women empowerment as part of the third-annual BRAVE Summit. The summit featured multiple speakers and eight breakout sessions throughout the day, including keynote speaker actress Amanda Seales.

BRAVE, which stands for “Black, Resilient, Artistic, Vigilant, and Enough,” was founded by three Georgetown alumnae in order to unite black women in an uplifting space. This year’s theme was “Artistically, Authentically, Unapologetically Black,” which event organizers said was focused around the uniqueness of the African-American female experience.

“We chose this theme because there is rhythm in the way we walk, poetry in the way we talk, and art in the way we carry ourselves in a country that consistently tries to conceal us,” organizers wrote in a Facebook post.

The event was sponsored by numerous Georgetown departments and student organizations, alongside corporations such as Google and Deloitte, and drew students from around the DMV area. Speakers included Georgetown students, academics, influencers in the beauty and media industries, corporate heads, and religious leaders.

In an email to the Voice, Director of Marketing Kayla Harris (MSB ‘18) discussed the lasting importance of the convention.

“The summit provides an opportunity for Black women to network with other Black women, share their testimonies, hear similar stories from women who look like them, and gives them opportunity to feel further validated in the space that was made for them,” she wrote.

A major goal this year was a push to incorporate youth.

“[T]the summit brought in even more DCPS [D.C. Public School] students than last year, allowing young Black girls to see the eclecticism in Black womanhood,” wrote Harris.

Amanda Seales, best known for her role on HBO’s Insecure, spoke on her career as an actor, comedian, and musician as the summit’s keynote speaker. In a dialogue moderated by Soyica Diggs-Colbert, professor of African American studies and theater & performance studies, Seales shared both her personal experiences and experiences shared by the African-American community through an intersectional lens.

Seales’ anecdotes and clever answers and to Dr. Diggs-Colbert’s questions often left the audience laughing. While discussing her humor in relation to her comedy show, “Smart, Funny, and Black,” Seales said she was careful to maintain the independent nature of the show, rather than allow a TV network commodify black humor.

“For so long, black comedy was not considered smart, you know, it was considered more silly and more in a physical space,” said Seales.

Seales shared how she learned to pair professionalism and efficiency with artistry from her early work at a performing arts high school, where they operated like a regional theatre and worked off of bank accounts reaching $60,000.

After her interview, the floor was opened to questions from the audience, who asked questions on matters such as mental health, colorism, the role of black women in the business world, LGBTQ intersections in the community, and mental health.

Seales explained her own experience with therapy as having value in “trying to make an unsteady, uncharted world make sense” and likening it to “a gym membership for your brain,” rather than a sign of unhealthiness.

Seales said she hopes that the black community at large can work toward rejecting homophobia, colorism, and misogyny.

“I want to see there be an overall desire for us as a black community to embrace individualism,” she said.

Seales said her most important advice for black women was to “make your own shit.” The advice fit well into BRAVE’s focus on the unique contributions of black women to the world.

“I don’t mean just make your own art,” she said. “You gotta make your own spaces for that art to exist, you gotta work with other people to create stufflike exactly where we are. Because we are never considered, except for by us.”

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