Empowered to Empower: The Story of Ricki Fairley '78
From Left to Right: Ricki Fairley, Mary J. Blige, and Ashley Dedmon at the White House for an evenet with the American Cancer Society where they have been invited to be on the Steering Committee for their Breast Cancer Roundtable.
About the Dartmouth Black Lives Oral History Project
"Dartmouth Black Lives (DBL) is a new teaching, learning, and community-building initiative at Dartmouth College. Designed and led by faculty in the departments of History and African and African American Studies, DBL is a multi-year project to record and preserve the oral history testimony of Dartmouth Black alumni. Students who enroll in Dartmouth Black Lives in the fall term complete an interview and transcript. They also embed their interview in a digital exhibit based on themes in their narrator’s life. Students select the themes, find sources to contextualize them, and design the exhibit. They draw on a range of sources, including the archives of Dartmouth College, visual media, other oral history collections, the records of student organizations, memoirs, and secondary literature."
Dartmouth Black Lives
Supporting The Dartmouth Black Lives Project has been an invaluable experience. I believe it is important to have projects like these that center the voices of those who are often overlooked. Being at an institution that was not created for people like us to feel like it is our home, it is important for current Black students to be connected with the rich history of those who came before them. It is my hope that projects like these promote and sustain a sense of belonging for students who may feel out of place.
My most valuable takeaway from this project has been focusing on the experiences of people who welcomed themselves into new spaces. As a student today, I am grateful for the Black students, especially the Black women on campus who felt empowered to create the spaces they wanted to have for themselves. Spaces like The AAm [The Afro American Society], BGAM [Black Girls are Magic], Black Praxis, and BADA [Black Alumni of Dartmouth Associaton] are not only the reasons why I originally felt so compelled to come to this school, but they continue to be the reasons why I feel so connected to my culture and the other amazing people in the community.
Our research group focused a lot on acknowledging the importance of Oral history to communities that in many cases, did not have a voice historically. Some people believe that if history is not written, it cannot be considered true. This thought process is damaging to communities who have been deprived of access to education, and the ability to formally preserve their history for various reasons. We also discussed the implications of written history, and how history can easily be manipulated by those who have the power and resources. As a result, the use of oral history presents itself to be an accessible and meaningful tool to preserve the experiences of many discriminated groups and particularly holds a special place in the heart of Black culture.
I would like to thank my Professors Julia Rabig and Darryl Barthé for their intentional effort to elucidate the preciousness of oral history. From doing preliminary research to preparing a plan for my interview, performing the interview, and then transcribing it, I have learned that this process takes great patience and attention to detail. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with Ricki Fairley, a leader in many communities and one who never fails to find a way to #GSD.
I would also like to appreciate the hard work of my peers who also contributed to the Dartmouth Black Lives course to foster a collaborative and comfortable learning environment. All of our interviews and exhibits contribute much value to something much greater than ourselves. I look forward to supporting this project as it continues to flourish over the years!