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Student documentary addresses campus racial discrimination

Nichole Corbett will present her senior project, a documentary about the experiences of women of color on campus, on Thursday. Photo Courtesy of Nichole Corbett

Noah Cannon

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Since enrolling as a student at The University of Alabama, Nichole Corbett’s perspective on racial discrimination has evolved greatly. 

Corbett, now a senior majoring in English and interdisciplinary studies, decided to devote her senior thesis to exploring the different experiences of women of color on campus. The resulting documentary, entitled Phenomenal Women, will be screened Thursday night as part of the University’s African American History Month programming.

“I grew up in the South, so microagressions about my hair, skin color, and the way I talked were something I tended to brush off,” she said.

Corbett arrived in Tuscaloosa her freshman year and was upset to discover that the color of her skin would prevent her from being included in Greek organizations on campus, she said. 

“I had never had the problem before,” Corbett said. “As a National Achievement Scholar, I felt recruited to come to this university, only to be allowed a portion of its privileges.”

To produce Phenomenal Women, Corbett interviewed women of color from different backgrounds to record their insights into racial bias and discrimination at The University of Alabama.

“It surprised me that almost all of the students I asked believed that this university is an unsafe place for women of color,” she said.

The University’s Crossroads Community Center, a co-sponsor of the event, will facilitate a discussion following the screening led by Sustained Dialogue student moderators. Lane McLelland, the director of Crossroads, said attendees will be invited to share their responses to the film in a respectful environment.

“There will also be a panel of faculty and students to engage questions raised by the film and the dialogues,” McLelland said.

Corbett said she hopes that her documentary will spark a discourse about race and gender on campus, especially involving those whose voices are often not heard.

“Within my interviews I spoke with people who are not normally asked about these issues, and many times they had more engaging and interesting points than the people who are usually more vocal,” she said.

Corbett wants to present an objective depiction of Phenomenal Women’s subject matter. “I didn’t want to preach about my beliefs,” she said. “I wanted to capture the voices of women of color in a relatively unbiased, simplistic manner.”

Phenomenal Women screens tonight at 5 p.m. in Room 205 of the Gorgas Library. For a complete calendar of African American History Month events, visit crossroads.ua.edu.

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Student documentary addresses campus racial discrimination