“I’ve never had a personality in my life who had identities and passions similar to mine, so when I came to the state of Iowa I wanted to become the role model that I would have admired when I was younger,” Durga Sritharan said .
“Thoughts of The Little Brown Girl,” Iowa student Durga Sritharan, a poem describing Sritharan’s experiences as a person of color in predominantly white environments, was recently published by the Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity (JCSCORE). .
Sritharan, a senior majoring in biology, participated in the NCORE-ISCORE project from 2021-2022.
A year-long project, part of the program includes attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) and demonstrating lessons learned through a presentation at the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity ( I POINTS).
Attending these conferences prompted Sritharan to highlight her experiences and challenges related to race and ethnicity in a poem. Sritharan shared that expressing feelings through means other than music or dance was a struggle and writing this poem presented a new challenge.
“The main goal behind my poem was to put my own feelings into words,” Sritharan said. “When I was challenged to write my lyrical expression, I wanted to make sure I was using writing as a new outlet and effectively expressing my thoughts and feelings.”
In this poem, Sritharan shared her experiences of predominantly white environments due to the challenges she faced during her childhood. Sritharan has been traveling in predominantly white areas and institutions since elementary school.
“I’ve never had a character in my life who had identities and passions similar to mine, so when I came to the state of Iowa I wanted to become the role model that I would have admired when I was younger,” Sritharan said.
Sritharan explained that her experience in the state of Iowa differs from previous experiences in predominantly white institutions.
“With my early experiences…I found myself more protected and I didn’t embrace my culture or upbringing as much,” Sritharan said. “At Iowa State, I used my leadership and research skills to become more involved in conversations about race, ethnicity, and social justice issues, which greatly influenced my undergraduate experience.”
Sritharan shared that promoting authenticity in the different environments on campus is valuable.
“Sometimes we’re expected to behave or present ourselves differently to conform to social norms, rather than being our raw and authentic selves, which are just as beautiful,” Sritharan said. “I believe there is tremendous value in promoting authenticity in all settings on campus, be it in courses, student organizations or work environments.”
“Thoughts of the Little Brown Girl” was a way for Sirtharan to express herself and her identity. For Sritharan, this poem was written as a way for people to relate to each other.
“Since my poem reflects my experiences as a person of color in a predominantly white environment, I want my poem to serve as an affirmation to other readers who relate in any way, shape, or form,” Sritharan said.
To read Sritharan’s poem, visit this page.