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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary's celebrates Black literature with guest speaker

On Feb. 22, Saint Mary’s College continued its celebration of Black History Month with a “Celebration of Black Literature.” The reading was hosted by the student diversity board and Black Student Association (BSA), as well as the education and English departments. While eating treats from Nothing Bundt Cakes, the audience listened to guest speaker Dionne Bremyer talk about her book “The Islands.” 

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Audience members listen to guest speaker Dionne Bremyer read from her book, “The Islands.”


President of Student Diversity Board (SDB) Crystal Ramirez said that this event was part of the board’s mission to “advocate, celebrate and educate.”

“This was the perfect way of doing all three. We got to educate, celebrate and advocate in this month of Black history with a Black author,” she said. 

Bremyer used to be a professor at Saint Mary’s and now works as an associate professor of English at Notre Dame. Ramirez said that Bremyer’s return to Saint Mary’s to speak shows the community that is fostered at the College.

{Editor's note: Crystal Ramirez is a former associate news editor for The Observer.}

“She no longer teaches here, but she still keeps in touch not only with faculty and staff who are currently here, but with students who were here,” she explained.

Ramirez said Breymer's connection to Saint Mary’s made it “surprisingly easy” to get her to speak on campus.

“Getting speakers is hard and takes time and a lot of money and effort. Her being not only so willing to come but so excited made us even more excited,” Ramirez said.  

Breyona Gray, president of Saint Mary’s BSA, talked about Bremyer being a great guest to celebrate Black literature.

“Oftentimes, Black literature may be focused more on trauma, but she offers a different perspective that it doesn’t always have to necessarily be about trauma,” Gray said. “Black literature is so essential to have because of so many different perspectives and experiences that it offers.”

Bremyer started her presentation with reading an excerpt from her 2022 book “The Islands,” published under her pen name Dionne Irving. “The Islands” is a series of short stories of Jamaican women trying to escape the colonization of the island. During the talk, Bremyer read an excerpt about a woman who feels pressured into helping with International Day at her child’s school. 

After her reading, Bremyer hosted a question and answer session where she talked on various subjects. One such question was about her writing process.

“I wish there was a process,” she joked. “It’s so chaotic and erratic.”

Bremyer responded by giving listeners insights into how she works.

“Writing by hand is helpful,” Bremyer said. “I have about ten notebooks with various crazy scenes and diagrams.” 

Bremyer also spoke about her ways of helping with writer’s block, saying, “eavesdrop on people, that’s my number one writing tip.” She gave advice to listeners to be curious about the world.

Bremyer continued about the importance of celebrating Black literature. While she didn’t name a favorite story, she said she is excited to read more books by Black female authors. She explained how she didn’t want to go to college, but it was in school that she was able to expand her love of reading, especially Black stories. 

Gray noted that audience members seemed to enjoy Bremyer’s reading and discussion.

“It was just nice hearing her and being able to engage with her. Her energy and her love for writing and reading was just contagious,” Gray said. 

Ramirez also commented on Bremyer’s attitude when speaking with students.

“It was really nice and heartwarming getting to see how excited she was to come back and to talk to students from Saint Mary’s,” Ramirez said. 

As Black History Month comes to an end, Ramirez said the SDB is encouraging students to keep celebrating Black history.

“Celebrate Black history not just in this month, but everyday through small things, through reading Black Literature, by supporting Black owned businesses,” Ramirez said. 

Gray talked about concrete plans to continue celebrating Black history.

“We used to do something like every week where we come together and just have fun, we’ve done that a couple of times this semester. We also do some educational components,” Gray noted about future BSA events. “We are planning on doing an event centered around microaggressions and how we can all work together to acknowledge them and kind of stop them from happening. Everyone’s welcome to join.”