Daria Sullivan

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Heinz Programming Area:
Arts and Culture
International Experience Summary:

Daria Michelle Sullivan is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh (Oakland Campus). She is majoring in both theatre and communication with the goal to become a professional, working actress after graduation. She studied abroad in June in Accra, Ghana using the USAC (University Studies Abroad Consortium) program.  While there, she was able to take a class entitled “African Music and Dance”, work on writing a play with a local Ghanaian actor, playwright, and director that highlights the differences and similarities between being black in Ghana and being black in the U.S., and even meet a famous Ghanaian actress (Ama K. Abebrese) who starred in Beasts of No Nation.

Knowing that it was only right to not only take something away from the people of Ghana, but to also give back to them, she volunteered at a local elementary school. Her favorite experience in the classroom was her last day where she taught the children (ages six and seven) a lesson she called “My Black is Beautiful”. She was able to teach them that black people in the U.S. come in many different shades and are considered black just like themselves, a concept that (before her lesson) they could not wrap their brains around. Furthermore, she also took a class called “Social Service Delivery Systems in Ghana” where she went on a field trip every week (including going to WAAF-West African AIDS Foundation) and participated in class discussions to learn more about the people of Ghana and their culture.

Furthermore, after living in Ghana for a month, Daria is better able to understand what it means to be a black woman in the U.S. and where her people come from. Learning a more in-depth history of the anguish of her ancestors has helped her to have an even greater sense of purpose and determination to forge her way forward in this world. Her expectations were tremendously exceeded for her study abroad experience and she cannot thank the Vira I. Heinz program enough for her incredible journey.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title:  #StopTheShade: Exploring the Color Bias

We, the University of Pittsburgh-Oakland campus VIH group, hosted our CEE entitled #StopTheShade: Exploring the Color Bias on December 8th from 6 pm-8 pm in the O’Hara Student Center. We advertised this event as a break from studying for finals where people could learn and discuss a complex issue while also enjoying pizza and refreshments. The turn out ended up being the perfect amount of people (not too small and not too big), which led to a very productive evening that felt intimate during small group discussions. Our overall goal of the event was to educate everyone in the room about the global prejudice/discrimination against people with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group (the definition of colorism), and we were successful at accomplishing this goal. We did this by presenting different video clips depicting how colorism shows itself in different countries around the world (i.e. Ghana, China, and India). We also presented information on the history of colorism, our individual observations/research on colorism in the countries we studied abroad in, and colorism in the media. Once we presented this issue as one that affects various countries around the world, we informed our audience that this was also an issue that affects people of color here in the United States. Throughout the event, we interspersed discussion questions (to follow the videos/our presentations) for small groups at their individual tables and then regrouped to hear what people had to share from their talk at their tables. Our final discussion was one big one that included everyone in the room where we talked about ways that we can move forward and #StopTheShade, meaning end the color bias. Originally, this talk was not supposed to be that long, but it ended up going on for longer than expected because the audience was eager to share their thoughts. After that, we watched a powerful spoken word poem (“Black Girl”) by the famed young poet, Kai Davis, which praises dark-skinned women. We ended with closing thoughts, including urging our audience to continue the conversations they started tonight. After that, we received a beautiful applause at the end of our event and positive feedback from attendees before they left. My CEE members and I are incredibly proud of our hard work and we are confident that we made a change in our community through education; knowledge truly is power.