Bryan’s Cafe allows for discussion identity, appropriation, intersectionality

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Senior Michael Fuentes gives his opinion on gender identity at Bryan's Cafe Debate Monday evening at the Shalala Student Center. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photographer

Senior Michael Fuentes gives his opinion on gender identity at Bryan’s Cafe Debate Monday evening at the Shalala Student Center. Kawan Amelung // Staff Photographer

Gender identity, cultural appropriation and intersectionality were discussed in the context of modern culture Monday night as part of the debate team’s second-ever Bryan’s Cafe discussion.

The University of Miami’s debate team held the round table discussion in the Shalala Center Monday night, after holding their first Bryan’s Cafe last spring semester. The debate’s setting was intimate and all 20 participants were seated around a table, allowing for free and open communication.

Jacob Rudolph, a junior majoring in political science and the former president of UPride, led the discussion in a lighthearted manner to make participants feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts, while avoiding the heaviness such serious and controversial topics can bring to a room. Members from the event’s co-sponsors, the National Organization for Women and United Black Students, attended the event as well.

The conversation began with the definition of intersectionality – the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. Rudolph jokingly invited students to “toss a penny into the oppression pond” and give examples of groups that are oppressed in society. Topics ranged from the country’s history and involvement in the slave trade, to contemporary issues such as the Twitter fued between musicians Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj.

David Steinberg, the university’s director of debate and a faculty member in Communication Studies, introduced the concept behind Bryan’s Cafe.

“We travel around the country, but are better known in places like Kentucky than we are here on campus. We do things like Bryan’s Cafe to provide more outreach, visibility and to better serve our community. It’s not competitive debate. Instead, it encourages discourse while allowing participants to share their personal opinions and experiences.”

Professor Steinberg explained why Bryan’s Cafe was named after William Jenning’s Bryan, one of the university’s founders.

“He insisted on having a debate team here at the university,” Steinberg said. “His daughter Ruth Bryan Owen was UM’s first debate coach and Florida’s first woman representative in the United States Congress.”

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