Maybe the blog title gave us away; we are obviously two brown girls interested in blogging about our experiences in the museum industry, but there’s more to Ravon and I than just that! We’re excited about building a community of people who, like us, are interested in museum minority experiences, and to that end, we interviewed each other in order to start the conversation.
On a beautiful spring day outside of an uptown D.C. cafe, we sat down to interview each other about the basic resume stuff, favorite things, ultimate goals– to share a bit about who we are.
Amanda interviews Ravon
Amanda: As if I don’t already know the answer to this, but, what’s your name?
Ravon: Ravon Ruffin
A: So happy to meet you all over again! Tell me about your academic background.
R: I’m a Master’s student at George Washington University in American Studies, with a focus in Museums and Material Culture. Before this, I went to Virginia Commonwealth University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology.
A: This is the first time I’ve heard you have a B.S. and not a B.A., how interesting.
R: Yes, so the VCU Anthropology department focuses on the four-field approach–biological, archaeological, cultural and linguistic–, however, I would say the faculty were more so in the first two categories, at least at the time, but I have always been more interested in cultural Anthropology.
A: What’s your hometown?
R: Chicago, Illinois.
A: And where in D.C. do you live now?
R: Fort Totten, in Northeast D.C. It’s an older neighborhood, but since I moved there a few months ago, they have already started putting up new apartments and young professionals are moving in. Definitely seeing it gentrify a little bit. It will be interesting to see how the neighborhood maintains.
A: What goals do you have for yourself?
R: Living as a museum professional with a sun-drenched loft back in Richmond, VA, of course! I’d like to do museum work that uplifts local communities through museum engagement, especially through dynamic exhibition. I really want to get people engaged through dialogue, reaching out to the community around me, not just to share my ideas but to hear from them as well. I have a special interest in urban development, preserving the histories of urban landscapes.
A: What is your favorite compliment to receive?
R: I like when people say they like my smile, whether they are close friends or strangers, or whomever. Smiles are infectious, and it’s impossible to be negative when you see someone with a great one.
A: What skills or talents do you have, that you haven’t been able to use yet in museums or American Studies work?
R: Working with a team, planning projects for groups of people. I’ve reached the point of having experience in different individual aspects of research, but I’d like to do more collaborative work in the community, where I could bring different types of people together.
A: I know that you have had kind of a nomadic life before moving to DC, so since you’re interested in community engagement, how do you start to feel engaged in new neighborhoods or cities? Are there any markers or cultural institutions that help you feel like you belong or have found your place?
R: So far it’s been because of school or work, mainly. I think it starts with friendships, whether work friends or cohorts and classmates, kind of networking our ideas and talking shop, and then from there a casual brunch or whatever. Getting to network, building a social group, connecting with those people and then building our networks together and introducing new people, that’s what makes me feel engaged.
Ravon interviews Amanda
R: Okay, what’s your name?
A: Amanda Figueroa
R: And where did you go to college?
A: I did my undergrad at Mary Baldwin College, a tiny private women’s college in Virginia. I double-majored in English and American Studies, and now like you, I’m at George Washington, getting a Master’s degree in American Studies, Museums and Material Culture.
R: And where are you from?
A: El Paso, Texas.
R: What neighborhood in DC do you live in?
A: Logan Circle! I just moved back into the city after living in Northern Virginia for a while. I love being able to walk everywhere again, and I’m glad that the big city is more dog-friendly than I thought it would be. Plus it’s fun to live in one of the “cool” neighborhoods now!
R: What are your career goals?
A: I mean, aside from the inevitable fame and fortune that academia brings, I’d like to keep doing research on how objects and landscapes shape state formation, and working with activists on women’s issues, especially on the U.S.-Mexico border. For me, museums are the best place to combine both of these goals, since they can be archives of information and also areas for people to raise awareness and advocate for change.
R: If you were going to put together the perfect outfit for a day on the go, day to night, what would it be and why?
A: Hmm, well it would start with leopard print ballet flats, since they are a staple in my wardrobe. I’d pair those with some black skinny jeans, and my favorite top that’s a neutral cream color with black embroidery. Personally, I only wear black after 9:00 PM, so this outfit would take me from day to night without being overdressed, and the neutral colors won’t clash with my loud personality. I’d be able to walk all around the city without any hassle. I’d make sure my hair is up and I’d be unstoppable!
R: If you were going to plan a day for me in DC, where would you tell me to go?
A: I’d tell you to start with brunch in Eastern Market, at the Chesapeake Room, since brunch is a D.C. institution and Eastern Market is the first neighborhood in D.C. I got to know really well it will always be my favorite. Then get drinks at Blue Jacket in the Navy Yard, and hopefully see a baseball game or just enjoy the water. Finally, do fancy dinner somewhere downtown before seeing the monuments at night, since there will be fewer crowds and you get a totally different impression of them than during the day.
R: You asked me about being a nomad, so since you’ve moved around a lot yourself, how do you navigate between different identities, whether it’s culture, relationships, or profession?
A: There’s definitely a lot of “code switching” that happens — I tend to keep certain parts of my identity for certain groups of people. The things I talk about with my family back home in Texas won’t really make a lot of sense to the people I meet here in DC at work, for example. But it’s definitely a partitioning of who I am, so I am trying to work on lowering my own boundaries and getting comfortable with letting parts of my chicana identity influence who I am at work or what I’m thinking about in class, and what are the best ways to invite people to see the different aspects of me.