Nov 20th, 2019, 04:10 PM

Black and Abroad: New Club on the Block

By Lauren Williams
Amari Bing-Way, the founder of Black and Abroad. Image Credit: Lauren Williams
Amari Bing-Way created a space at AUP for black students to learn more about themselves

“I really wanted to deal with the feeling of being inadequate in your blackness— there’s more than one way to be Black,” Amari Bing-Way, the founder of Black and Abroad, tells me at school before one of the club’s Wednesday meetings. Bing-Way speaks with a calm air of nonchalance, and her confidence is contagious. She is passionate about Black people, culture, and life. So, this year, she took it upon herself to create a space at school where Black students could be themselves— together. 

Black and Abroad is a club that strives to create space for students within the community to tackle complicated topics. The idea for the club first materialized last year, but the reason for it has been a constant throughout Bing-Way’s life. She grew up near Washington D.C. and often found herself feeling like the odd one out amongst her peers because, she says,  “I talked differently or liked certain things that weren’t considered Black.” Evoking Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she explains that having a single story for an entire group of people is dangerous, and frankly, she’s tired of it. 

After AUP, Bing-Way wants to do something creative, “I like making things look nice, and I like helping people,” she tells me, and she hopes to do something with improving the image of people of color through social media. But, for now, she is focusing on making AUP a more comfortable place for students of color.

Black and Abroad has only been around at AUP for a few months and has already made its mark on the student body. Club meetings, while social, are not passive hangouts. Meetings are a place of active discussion that often gets personal. “To have meaningful conversations with others about what it means to be Black, we have to understand one another first,” Bing-Way explains, emphasizing that there are misconceptions within the community and far too many issues that aren't discussed with one another. 

Black and Abroad Instagram. Image Credit: Amari Bing-Way.

She spent her summer planning out how the club would be structured. It was important for Bing-Way that the club had a specific format, not for the sake of rigidity, but for comfort and productivity. She decided that each week would have a theme and thought of questions and topics that she always wanted to know or understand better about the Black community. "I came up with some topics like hair, Africans versus African Americans, language, and privilege," she explains and adds that the list is continuously growing. Currently, there are enough topics to carry weekly club meetings until the end of next semester. 

Bing-Way, like everyone, has had doubts at times. "The thought of like, ‘How will I lead people if I don’t feel secure in my blackness’ has run through my mind. But I just have to combat those feelings," she explains. However, leading, in general, is no new feat for Bing-Way. She and her roommates started her highschool's Diversity Club, and she's comfortable with being in charge. However, she is especially intentional about the way she leads Black and Abroad. She explains that she is coming from one perspective of the diaspora, one that is African-American, and makes sure to get members of the club involved in planning discussion topics. "I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or misrepresent something because I don’t know what it’s like to be black in other countries or under different circumstances," she says. 

Bing-Way. Image Credit: Amari Bing-Way. 

While, for the most part, leading the club has been a positive experience, Bing-Way has been met with some confusion about why the club membership is not open to the broader student body. The club was created for black students, but Bing-Way does not find it to be unnecessarily exclusive. "Walking into a meeting and seeing twenty people sitting there is the most black students you will see in one place on campus," she explains, "there's no other place at school like this." She is planning on hosting open events throughout the year that will be open to all students, as well. 

Bing-Way has ideas for hosting a conversation over wine and painting, in the style of a "paint and sip", as well as a panel soon on allyship, and both will be open to all AUP students. She doesn't want the club's open events to be about racial divides, but rather an opportunity for all of the student body to come together to learn from one another. "We all just need to get better at listening," she says with optimism in her voice. 

The clubs objectives are to educate, advocate, and represent black students. Right now, Bing-Way feels that the most important thing is to educate one another. There are so many stories within the black community, even just here at AUP, that need to be heard, and Bing-Way is committed to making sure that they are. "The club is here to say, 'We exist,'" she explains.