Oral Histories: Keloni “Ke” Parks, 2019
Keloni “Ke” Parks
BFA General Fine Arts ‘12
What’s it like to be black at MICA?
“So when I started going to MICA in 2008, it seemed as if there were only about 10 other Black students in my freshman class, but as the years went on, it seemed as if the number of Black students entering each year increased 25 to 30 percent each year. I was often the only Black student in the classes that I took.
In general, I never really felt uncomfortable at MICA being Black. However, I definitely had some weird experiences. Once a TA asked me what it was like going to school with people who have so much money, and I don't recall talking about my economic background to her or in class before. So I thought that question was kinda odd. A white male student put his foot in my hair during a rehearsal for a play, and I thought that was really rude. During my Elements of Visual Thinking class, where I was the only Black student, many of the students shared sad stories about their racist towns and schools, and I still don't know what prompted this, but overall, I felt fine being Black at MICA. Maybe to most these three examples are actually egregious, but I just try to assume people are oblivious. However, the guy who put his foot in my hair was a singular asshole, and he's lucky I was too cowardly to throw down.
I had two Black professors during my time at MICA, and I had a young Black professor during my final senior thesis critique. I also worked with Black support staff, and I would say my experiences with most of them wasn't different than my experiences with staff of other races. Whether throwing their weight around in the name of altruism, or acting in accordance with the other professors in the room, having a Black professor/staff member didn't enhance my educational experience as a Black student at MICA. However, the more representation the better. MICA definitely needed a more diverse faculty.
In general, I would say that my best experiences were with younger staff who were currently practicing. There were more traditional staff members who refused to critique my work because it had text. One of these instructors had a Black background, and there were staff members who only wanted me to do a certain type of artwork, which I felt discouraged my growth as an artist. I often had pretty good critiques, but I think it was due to my aesthetic choices. I think that there are aesthetics associated with Black art many people struggle with.”