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Xavier students hear ‘Insecure’s’ Amanda Seales preach about why race and gender matter

Real talk with the comedian, actress, writer and producer captivated her audience


Once Amanda Seales opened her mouth, class was in session at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her students, who doubled as fans, were laughing, crying and yelling, “Preach, Amanda.”

Seales is a comedian, actress, writer and producer. But when she stood in front of a room full of students in Xavier’s University Center Ballroom on Wednesday, she became a teacher. The actress is best known for her role as the bougie Tiffany DuBois in one of the hottest shows for young African-Americans: Issa Rae’s Insecure on HBO.

“When you see a show like Atlanta not win or Insecure win [an Emmy], it isn’t that they aren’t winning,” Seales said. “They just didn’t win for these folks.”

Every Sunday, fans tune in to the show to see how Seales’ character and others help Issa Rae explore what it means to be a black woman dealing with life’s challenges, from finding a job to her relationship status. For many young people, watching Insecure has become a social event. Viewers engage live on Twitter with the cast about the show.

Seales, who earned a master’s degree in African-American studies from Columbia University, discussed race, culture and politics during her intimate sit-down conversation at Xavier.

She sees this show as an extension of her work creating content to empower black women. She noted that not all professions are willing to uplift or applaud black men or women. She used this year’s Emmys as an example.

One student asked Seales why there are often more African-American people handing out Emmys than receiving one. She explained that people who hold power and money in the industry often decide awards. “When you win an award at the Emmys, it’s not a reflection of your talent,” she said.

“When you see a show like Atlanta not win or Insecure win, it isn’t that they aren’t winning,” Seales said. “They just didn’t win for these folks.”

Instead, Seales said that the true measure of success of a show is to see if the target audience is watching. “The community that you made it for feels empowered and strengthened by it,” she said.

After leading an impromptu rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing and encouraging students to be vocal and fearless, she talked a little about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Seales said that Xavier and all HBCUs should be an open space to discuss difficult issues, such as police brutality, that affect African-Americans. She added that the first place to initiate change is on campus by helping others.

“Everybody in here agrees that police brutality is out of hand,” she said. “So when Kap takes a knee and you see folks that still want to watch the NFL and still kind of want to ignore the power in that.”

The actions of public figures such as Colin Kaepernick who sacrificed their careers for what they stood for are examples of courage, said Anthony Freeman, Xavier’s student government association president.

“One thing [Seales] really stressed is that sometimes you have to push yourself in an uncomfortable position to make something happen, even if that means risking it all,” Freeman said. “She said you can risk your education, but ultimately that’s something no one can take away from you.”

Seales shared her personal experiences along with her political perspectives. Kelsey Green, Miss Xavier, appreciated Seales’ transparency and said her insights were relatable to many of the students.

“The biggest thing I got from it was mentoring,” said Green, an aspiring physician from Memphis, Tennessee. “When I ran for Miss Xavier, my main target was mentorships. She talked about really empowering other younger females and our classmates.”

Seales said she had to overcome challenges early on as an undergraduate at the State University of New York, Purchase. She was asked to leave her freshman year because of conduct issues.

“I was the only black woman in the class,” she said. But she decided to advocate for herself and continued to pursue her passions.

These four years in college are a place to grow, learn from others and cultivate your future, she told students. “You really do have the power to direct your path,” Seales said. “There is a reason why they say knowledge is power, because once you have it, you now have a step ahead of anybody else.”

Allana J. Barefield is a senior mass communication major. The Bostonian is a student representative for the NABJ Sports Task Force, and loves writing feature stories because sports are more than just stats.