Tell and Listen

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. On campus, she is a part of the leadership board for the Asian American Student Union. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

Setting up recording equipment, not quite sure how high to raise the microphone; nervously re-reading your list of questions; waiting to talk to a person you have never seen in real life – this is what it is like to conduct an oral history. You do not know where the conversation will wander, even if you prepare a list of questions or have a direction in mind for the conversation. Looking back on my reflections on how I thought interviews would pan out, I have learned a lot since then. Previously, I had nothing but my imagination, the Collegian, and ancient yearbook pages to base my expectations on.

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Acknowledge the Past

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. On campus, she is a part of the leadership board for the Asian American Student Union. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

Richmond has a rich history as one of the most active participants in the African slave trade and is prominently known as the Capital of the Confederacy. Despite its history, Richmond’s troubled past is not always visible to the naked eye. Many prominent landmarks have been paved over by sidewalks, parking lots, and contemporary infrastructure. A short car ride from metropolitan Richmond, there are still prominent relics of the Civil War era Virginia that have not fallen to city landscaping. Plantations, which used to be quintessential to the slave trade and economic boom of the South, now stand as echoes of the past. I decided to delve into the history of history of oppressed enslaved Africans by visiting Shirley Plantation, one of several James River plantations.

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The Devil’s Half Acre

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

I step out of my car into the oppressive, humid embrace of the Richmond summer day. Discretely tucked away behind a Virginia Commonwealth University parking lot is my destination – the Devil’s Half Acre, also called Lumpkin’s Slave Jail. My shoes crunch against the gravel, taking in the sights of an old, rotting railway track, walls donning graffiti, and crumbling stone walls. It was difficult to visualize what this space looked like as an African burial ground and slave jail. What I saw in my eyes was a sprawling grassy plain next to a highway and hidden behind a parking lot, the occurrences and horrors of the past diluted down to a stone memorial and several signs. The even-leveled field looked unnatural amongst the gravel, wooden light posts dotting the grass every few yards. If it were not for the grass, it looked like a parking lot. And I found out that in fact, as early as 2011, it was a parking lot owned by Virginia Commonwealth University. This space has long been one of contention and strife – a baseball stadium once threatened to overtake the site, but ultimately, it became a memorial ground and place to pay respects for the people of Richmond that fought to keep it there through vigils and protests. The Devil’s Half Acre is just a portion of what it used to be in the past. The history of unnamed slaves remain forgotten, buried under a layer of asphalt.

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The Past, Present, and Future Are Connected

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

Jenifer Yi interview Robin Mundle, June 13, 2019.

With formal interviews a week ahead, I slowly began to realize that I was dealing with real people with real emotions and memories. I was nervous about how to handle sensitive topics but at the same time excited to delve into the personal stories of alumni who once roamed the grounds as young, bristling students. I realized that as the interviewer, I had the power to shine a spotlight on specifics of an interviewee’s story while also being a vector for making University history known to others. In preparation for interviewing Professor Raymond Slaughter, Dominic Finney, and Robin Mundle, I decided to begin my research by looking at the University of Richmond Collegian archives for articles including these individuals. I believed that I would be able to find actual quotations from these individuals or what activities and clubs they were involved in on campus. Rather than trying to create a profile or impression of someone through the writing of a third party, I was particularly interested in forming an impression through the words of the interviewee themselves if I could. While searching, I wondered whether or not these interviewees were outspoken about racial issues and how they fit into the campus community.

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Being Asian and American at the University of Richmond

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

It took eighteen years before I stepped foot as far east as Richmond, Virginia – the farthest I’ve been out on the East Coast.  A little naïve but brimming with excitement for the unknown, I did not realize back then that I would struggle with my cultural identity and sense of belonging for the first time in my life. Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada for fourteen years then moving to a decently-sized suburb forty minutes outside Los Angeles, California for my high school years, I never noticed or took mind to the fact that I grew up and associated primarily with other Asian Americans. I befriended anyone who wanted to befriend me, but I never felt the oppressive pressure to prove to my non-Asian peers that I too, was born in the United States, and identified as an American despite having parents that immigrated from South Korea.

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