This article contains words from the video “Black Women Dating at Predominantly White Institutions,” but is by no means a comprehensive summary of the diverse scope of its content.
Nicole Osayande, ArtSci ’21, launched her YouTube channel and digital community, Black Beauty Tech, this week. Her first full video, titled “Black Women Dating at Predominantly White Institutions,” is a roundtable conversation featuring seven Queen’s students. In the video, the group of women discuss their experiences as Black women in Queen’s dating and hookup culture.
“[Black Beauty Tech] is essentially a space for me to talk about everything I love—Blackness, beauty, and tech—but it’s also to create a space for Black women to be authentically themselves in the tech space,” Osayande told The Journal.
Osayande said the intention behind her first video is to help people understand what it’s like to be a Black person in the dating scene at a primarily white institution such as Queen’s.
“I wanted the first thing that I talked about to be Blackness and to speak to a wider audience in the Black History Month. February is the month of Black History Month, but it’s also the month of love. I thought it would be a really good idea to bring those two topics together.”
“My goal with this […] isn’t to accuse anyone or make anybody feel targeted,” Osayande said. “I think there’s power in having a conversation or listening into a conversation that you’ve never really thought about yourself. I feel like when people watch [the video], whether they’re a Black person or not, they’ll think twice about their interactions in hookups and dating apps.”
The video begins with Jessica Somersall, ArtSci ’21, introducing some of the issues she’s faced trying to hook up at Queen’s: “It’s not fun, especially because you’re one of the only people of colour, and a lot of the time, when you’re trying to hook up with another person of colour, they’re too busy with white women.”
Somersall said this can cause her to push herself outside of her comfort zone in terms of who she’s having these interactions with—which can be a good thing, but it also leaves her “susceptible to a lot of fetishization.”
“You’re putting yourself out there, and you might get hurt.”
Jalisa Thompson, ArtSci ’21, described the “love-hate” relationships she has with dating apps for similar reasons.
Thompson said that, while she finds people she’s attracted to on these apps, those same people may not reciprocate because “they’re looking for somebody else.”
“If I do match with people, they’re very quick to bring race into it,” Thomspon explained. “I’m not interested in that aspect, and they’re very disrespectful about it sometimes.”
Outside of dating apps, Catherine Haba, ArtSci ’21, said she’s found navigating dating at Queen’s “very difficult.”
“I think there’s still very much that idea that you’re going to come to university and find your person,” she said. “As much as I would like to say that I didn’t necessarily have that in mind, […] going to a predominantly white university and just being in such a small town, it’s very difficult [to meet people] when you’re not on dating apps.”
Haba explained that being familiar with the Black community in Kingston can come with its own dating challenges: “Because you know each other and you know your friends, if one guy has messed around or dated another person within that community, because I’m most likely friends with that girl, or just because I know her, personally I just don’t want to go there.”
Osayande reiterated that dating options at Queen’s can seem limited. “As Black women in the dating scene, you do really feel like you have maybe fifty people to choose from—a hundred if it’s a good year.”
Lois Ifekwe, ArtSci ’21, explained how Queerness adds an extra layer to the experience.
“When you’re new to your sexuality, you’re exploring it, and you’re shy, you don’t really have the confidence to walk up to people and be like, ‘Hey, are you Gay? I am.’”
Ifekwe said it’s a common experience that when you’re interested in someone else, they’re either unavailable or uninterested in you “because you’re a person of colour.”
Danielle Edwards, ConEd ’23, described how, when it comes to speaking out about topics including dating at Queen’s, she’s grateful for the support of other Black women: “For me, I still remember that I am going to be seen as this or that […] it can really don on your self-confidence and your mind. But even with that burden, it’s so helpful to have fellow people of colour, like in the Black community, with you.”
While all these experiences can have a negative impact on self-perception, Fatoumata Tounkara, ArtSci ’21, said she has benefited from looking inward.
“I started to have confidence when I stopped actually focusing on the outside, focusing on how beautiful I am and who I’m attracting and stuff, and just focusing on me and my energies, and how I felt with my body,” Tounkara said.
“Your confidence is not built based on the people you attract or how many people you date or how many people are interested in you. Your confidence is within you.”
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