by Paige Wearmouth
With support from the Student Government Association and the Black Student Alliance, Marjan Koffa, a senior media studies and communications major, presented a documentary film which highlighted racial issues on college campuses on Wednesday, March 29th.
The film, entitled “Token,” was approximately 11 minutes long and explored the perspectives of black students who attend PWIs or predominantly white institutions. The film, which was submitted as Koffa’s senior thesis, focused specifically on the experiences of black students at Catholic University, which is considered to be predominantly white.
The event, held in the Edward J. Pryzbyla Student Center Great Room B, had a showing of over 100 people and filled a large majority of the seats. Before showing the documentary, the student government president, Kristina Pinault, gave brief welcoming remarks, followed by an address from Koffa explaining the purpose and inspiration for her documentary.
In her introduction, Koffa used experiences from her childhood to explain the inner conflicts she has had with her race. Referencing the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States, Koffa said that around her peers she often had to diminish her support of Obama even though she believed he was an inspiration to many young black people. Koffa, who is from Owings Mills, Maryland, also spoke about how growing up in predominantly white environments damaged her self-image, and the subsequent journey she undertook to regain confidence. Finally, Koffa relayed her personal experience as a black student at Catholic University. While she did say that she has faced many challenges at Catholic due to her race, she also said that she was proud of the university for helping her grow and did not regret choosing to attend. Koffa attributed much of her growth to the community she found in Catholic University’s Black Student Alliance.
Koffa developed the idea for her documentary and the title of the film, “Token,” through her social experiences at Catholic University specifically.
“I was a lot of peoples’ token black friend,” Koffa said. “To them, I wasn’t really black I just had black skin.”
Koffa explained that since she felt that their culture was being neglected by white peers, she had the need to share the stories of her fellow Black Student Alliance members in order to increase awareness of cultural divides and insensitivity across campus.
The film featured stereotypes often encountered by black students, footage from a round-table discussion about cultural issues, and personal accounts from several Catholic University students. Koffa and “Token” received a standing ovation from the audience at the conclusion of the screening.
Following the viewing of “Token,” a panel of Black Student Alliance members including Blair Davis, Samantha Lubin, Basira Knight, Sherman Abrams, and Zaniya Lewis, answered questions regarding their personal experiences with racial prejudice on and off campus. Topics included self-image, how they adjusted to life at Catholic University, and why they chose a predominately white university over a historically black college or university. Koffa said that she hopes her film will be a catalyst for social change at Catholic University and that she is happy she had the opportunity to start a narrative.
“The only way to bring about change is to begin the conversation,” Koffa said.
Students who attended the event expressed support for Koffa and her goal of getting more students involved in the discussion of racial issues.
Freshman social work major John Rullo echoed Koffa’s idea that an important step to finding change is to “start a conversation.”
Sophomore musical theater major Marilyn Lopes said she attended the event because she likes “seeing things from a different point of view.” She said the event helped her to see, as a non-black student, what she “takes for granted.”