Students of Color Symposium

Writing Beyond the Margins

By Robert C. Jones Jr.

Writing Beyond the Margins

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
At Students of Color Symposium, motivational speaker Octavia Yearwood encourages students to expand their boundaries.

Never one to stay within boundaries, Octavia Yearwood only wanted to express herself freely. So when, as a youngster, she was admonished to write between the margins on a page, Yearwood eventually rebelled.

“I said forget about that,” the motivational speaker and author said to a group of about 200 University of Miami students who had gathered January 26 for the opening network reception of the Students of Color Symposium. “I’m writing before the margins. I’m writing after the margins. I’m writing bigger than the lines on the page.”

Yearwood, of course, was speaking somewhat metaphorically, telling students not to confine themselves in their thoughts and actions. “I think about how our response to these margins plays a major role in the subconsciousness of all marginalized people in the world and also the people who make those rules,” she said at the reception, held at the Shalala Student Center. 

Students of Color SymposiumFounder of Team Ohhh, an arts services company that provides dance and visual art enrichment programming for public and private schools around the world, Yearwood extolled the contributions of people of color during her keynote address. “From collard greens to curry, from peanut butter to whisky. You feel me? We’re out there,” she said, drawing applause from the audience.

Yearwood urged students to write beyond the margins. “The more you write over those margins, the more their existence diminishes, quickly fading and showing how powerful you actually are,” she said. Her keynote address ended in a spoken-word performance by artist and activist James Klynn.

Yearwood, the recipient of an American Express Emerging Leaders Award and recognized by Legacy magazine as one of Miami’s 40 Black Leaders Under 40, also spoke at two of the Students of Color sessions held the next day.

Through workshops and panel discussions, the symposium, organized by UM’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, engaged students in dialogue around experiences unique to students of color.

Speaking prior to Yearwood’s Friday keynote, UM President Julio Frenk commended students for coordinating and participating in the symposium and said he was proud of them for tackling difficult issues such as immigration and social justice.