Gabrielle Union Tells Her Story and Makes AU History
By: Sophie Austin
Actor, philanthropist and businesswoman Gabrielle Union came to American University’s Bender Arena on Saturday October 21st, to speak to the community about her continuous journey in becoming a more fulfilled version of her true self.
Union made history by being the first woman of color and black woman to be featured as a speaker by AU’s Kennedy Political Union (KPU).
Union bought 400 copies of her memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine, to give out to the first people in line when the doors opened at 7:30.
As of now, Union has played roles in 36 films and has made appearances in numerous notable television shows since 1993, such as Family Matters, The Proud Family and the current show she stars in on BET, Being Mary Jane. Union’s acting career has made her the recipient of various awards from the Young Hollywood, NAACP and BET, for example.
Not only is she an accomplished actor, Union is a spokesperson for Susan G. Komen For the Cure, an organization that advocates for breast cancer awareness and research. According to the Huffingon Post, this issue is close to her heart, in part, because her friend was taken by the disease while she was in her 30’s. Union also does work with Planned Parenthood to ensure that women have access to the organization’s breast health services.
Miss D.C. and AU Vice President President of Campus Life, Fanta Aw, were among some of the attendees seated in the front row to witness Union speak.
Union spoke about the #MeToo campaign which has become increasingly popularized after famous actors have come out to tell their stories about being sexually harassed by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The campaign is not only about exposing sexual violence, but also about “overcoming low self-esteem” and a “sense of worthlessness,” said Union.
Union went on to speak about her background of growing up in a predominately white neighborhood in Nebraska where she felt as though her family was the “chip in the cookie” that needed to present themselves in a way that was “palatable” to the masses.
“I was the girl so committed to assimilation that I would let racist jokes slide.”
Union explained that she didn’t want to be “othered” by her peers or be seen as “that black girl”.
She later moved to a neighborhood where she found herself surrounded by other black people and struggled with her identity going back and forth between different personas. It was this struggle that contributed to her lower self-esteem.
Union made reference to the racist incidents that have taken place on AU’s campus, reminding the students to be “accountable for our shit” and demanding the administration to not only be concerned about ensuring diversity, but also for actuating inclusivity.
Afterwards, Union partook in a Q&A session with AU professor, Sybil Williams.
Referring again to the #MeToo campaign, Union celebrated Lupita Nyong’o’s bravery for revealing her experience of sexual harassment by Weinstein. She also condemned Weinstein’s response to her and deemed it as an attempt to invalidate the account of a black woman. Union connected this to President Trump’s attempt to make Congresswoman Frederica Wilson appear to be a liar.
Union, in general, praised women for being survivors of sexual violence and encouraged spectators to respect the varying healing processes of victims. She, as a survivor of rape and sexual violence herself, gave gratitude to UCLA’s free mental health care resources and 25 years of therapy for her healing.
At the end, Union mentioned and gave thanks to how she was feeling love and respect in the room and emphasized that the most important step in becoming your authentic self is knowing “What is going to erode my soul? What is going to feed my soul?” and “Where do I draw my line in the sand?”
Edited by Danielle Germain