Ronia-Isabel Cabansag: On today’s Thursday edition, we’re bringing you an exclusive interview with one of the organizers of a recent event that brought model and actress Dominique Jackson to speak at EMU. I’m Ronia-Isabel Cabansag, and you’re listening to the Eastern Echo Podcast.
Dominique Jackson is a Tobagonian American model and actress best known for her role as Elektra Abundance-Wintour on FX’s television series “Pose.” EMU students had the chance to meet Jackson in the Student Center Ballroom on November 5th and earn LBC credit for attending an event titled “An Evening with Dominique Jackson.” Jackson spoke about her life as a transgender woman of color, giving a behind-the-scenes look at her journey to success in the entertainment industry.
Throughout her open discussion, Jackson was able to touch on many different topics involving the LGBTQ community, violence against transgender individuals and our understanding of self-love and respect towards one another.
Reporter Bianca Ramsey was able to sit down and interview Amy Finkenbine, one of the hosts and coordinators of the event, as well as junior Digital Media Production Major Lauren Smith, who attended the event. Here’s Bianca’s conversation with Amy:
Amy Fikenbine: My name is Amy, and I’m the new coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center under the Department for Diversity and Community Involvement. I’ve been on the role since the end of September, so just over two months here in November. Bringing Dominique on the campus was kind of the first big event that we did since my role here.
Bianca Ramsey: What made you come about the Dominique Jackson event for the LGBT community here at Eastern?
Fikenbine: This was actually a collaboration with Campus Life, as well. They approached our department about potential speaker ideas. They had some funding that they wanted to use a wanted to partner with our office. It was actually my director Stephen Bryant. He had mentioned “Pose” being a great show, which I love “Pose.” It is a great show; he’s correct.
We just started looking into folks from that show specifically since it’s gotten so big this past year, too. I think that helped a little bit. And Dominique Jackson was the person that we were able to work with in terms of scheduling and pricing and whatnot for a successful event.
Ramsey: What was the main message and theme behind the program?
Fikenbine: I think one of the big things that we’re trying to accomplish was to bring that visibility to campus for queer and trans people of color. It can be hard to see yourself represented in different areas, and I think that “Pose” does a great job of bringing that visibility to light. Ball culture in general, which is what the show that she’s an actress on focuses on, is not necessarily as mainstream as other aspects of queer culture. And so that was a great thing to bring to campus and to partner with students here, who are involved in that world and showcase their talents like we were able to. And I think the main message of her talk – she had, I think, a couple of really good [main points] – but really speaking to not allowing other people to have power over you and kind of taking ownership of yourself in that way. I think she brought a really good message of being true to who you are.
Ramsey: What are some future programs coming up?
Fikenbine: I think that that was definitely a good conversation starter, in terms of what programming here looks like. We have our signature events that the center does every year, and since I’m new to this role, that’s kind of what I’m focusing on, is to make sure that those events that people expect out of us are still happening. For instance, in the Winter term, we’ll also be holding our annual Pride Prom, which is in March. And then we’ll also have our Lavender Celebration, which is kind of like a graduation celebration, but just to recognize anybody who’s been a leader throughout the year within the community and as an ally.
Bianca: What are some goals that you have for the future within our campus?
Fikenbine: I think part of my background is in grassroots organizing and moving measures legislatively or politically. I think that what I’ve witnessed across my four or five years as a professional in the field of higher [education] is a difficulty in engaging in difficult conversations. And so, one of the goals I do have is to help guide those instances where conflict emerges and figure out how we can work together with folks that we might not have in the past. Because in the end, I think we all have a common goal of having a great experience here at Eastern and preparing our students to go on to be the leaders in the community, when they're done, whatever those goals and communities might be, wherever that takes them. So, I want to help prepare them to be successful in those roles.
Ramsey: What were some things that you took personally from Dominique when she was talking?
Fikenbine: Honestly, just throughout the event, I just really appreciated the authenticity she brought. She started her talk by saying, “You know what? I don’t have this prepared, line-by line-script; I'm not gonna speak behind a podium, I'm gonna get real with you.” And she very much so did that, to the point where we even had you know the spontaneous performances that happened even while her talk was going on. And I think that just showed students that it is okay to be their whole selves. Or at least that’s what I hope that they took away from it – that they can be their whole selves at all times.
Ramsey: What you say to [students] if they’re looking to become more involved with the LGBTQ community?
Fikenbine: We have a number of avenues, most of which are easily accessible to find more information on our website. It can just be searched on Eastern Michigan’s website. If you just search LGBT, our website will pop right up.
But more specifically, something that’s been offered in the past that’s kind of been on hold since the previous coordinator left is our E.P.I.C. panel program. E.P.I.C. stands for eastern pride identity coalition, and so we’ve brought students, faculty, staff and community members to volunteer together on panels and go out and educate the campus community, either in a classroom setting or maybe on or in a [residence] hall program, to educate folks about the issues that folks in the LGBTQ+ community face every day.
That’s something that I would love to get an undergraduate, one day, to help coordinate, and then specifically give those opportunities for folks to volunteer and share their story because there is a lot of power in sharing and through storytelling and sharing your experience.
Cabansag: Overall, Finkenbine was able to discuss what happened behind the scenes at the “Evening with Dominique Jackson” event. She also highlighted the LGBT resource center, which has a couple events coming up in the Winter 2020 semester. We’ll be sure to note these events on our Monday news briefings, so stay tuned for updates.
For now, here is Bianca’s conversation with Lauren Smith, a student who was able to attend the “Evening with Dominique Jackson” event:
Ramsey: What were some tips that you took from the program?
Lauren Smith: I did not know that she was as outspoken as she is, which actually really appreciated, because with her being so outspoken, she talked a lot about how – It was something along the lines of “know your truth and don’t let anybody to take that away from you.” We talked about race and gender, intersexuality, which was goo that she highlighted on, especially with her being a trans woman. There’s a lot of things that I didn’t know and was educated in.
Ramsey: What was your favorite part of the overall evening with Dominique Jackson?
Smith: My favorite part, I would say, was seeing how closely her character and her were so similar. Electra is the person who’s not afraid to put somebody in their place, and she is more like a person who’s more kind and more forgiving. I just liked seeing her personality.
I would definitely like to go to more LGBTQ events. I just really like learning, I don’t want to say the culture, but things that I’m unfamiliar with, especially in the world, you not always going to be familiar with everybody. And so, I feel like it’s best that you get educated on these events, and not just your own assumptions about different people and different groups.
Ramsey: Would you recommend to an EMU who is unfamiliar with the TV show or just the topics – would you recommend that this to a student .
Smith: I definitely would. Even if these topics make people uncomfortable, I would recommend it to them, because sometimes, you need to be uncomfortable to grow or to learn.
I don’t know everybody who was in that crowd, but I remember she was talking about black people specifically, and there were white people in the audience. I think, even with them just being there, I think they took a lot from it. She wasn’t afraid to do that. I would definitely suggest everybody to come.
Cabansag: We hope you enjoyed these exclusive interviews with those involved with the “Evening with Dominique Jackson” event. You can find an article with more details about the event itself at easternecho.com. If there are any other events on campus or in the Ypsilanti community that you want an in-depth look at, please don’t hesitate to let us know! You can contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you on November 25th for your Monday news briefing! This is Ronia-Isabel Cabansag, signing off.
The Eastern Echo Podcast is directed by Ronia-Isabel Cabansag and produced by Rylee Barnsdale. This episode was written by Bianca Ramsey.