DaMonique Ballou ’13
DaMonique’s accomplishments have roots in her Crossroads experiences as a member of the Drama Touring Company.
A couple years ago, DaMonique Ballou saw the viral video of Dajerria Becton being thrown to the ground by a police officer and was startled by the identity of the subject: a 15-year-old African-American girl.
The video forced her to reflect on her own identity and experiences as a young black woman. It also compelled her to develop “Body. Black. Girl.,” a series of workshops she facilitated for young girls of color to deconstruct the narratives they internalized and their expressions of gender and race.
DaMonique brought these transformative workshops to fruition through her ELLA (Engage, Learn, Lead and Act) fellowship with the New York-based Sadie Nash Leadership Project, a nonprofit group that supports activism among young women.
“The matter is not simply about promoting diversity,” she says, “but reflecting and representing the people I serve and encounter.”
Her project was informed by her education at Barnard College, a liberal arts school for women in New York City. There, she planned student theater events; joined the Writing Fellows program to help peers with assignments across disciplines; worked with the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters to highlight issues in the African-American community at Barnard and Columbia University; and led a campaign to install new photographs on campus to reflect its diversity.
“You now see women wearing hijabs doing a scientific experiment, black students both in the classroom and at a social event on campus, and a student working diligently in an art studio,” DaMonique says. “We so quickly want to put people in a category that represents a quota, where we can measure figures or better evaluate marketing plans. But in quantifying what is in the space, you never learn who is there.”
Her accomplishments have roots in her Crossroads experiences as a member of the Drama Touring Company. Under the direction of Davida Wills, she and her classmates performed for underserved communities in the Bay Area, forcing her to rethink her preconceived notions of others. “I still remember Davida telling us, ‘It’s about seeing people,’ not their circumstance, their disability or my discomfort,” she says. “I remember and keep these lessons very close to my heart.”