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“What I Be” Event Brings Students Together Monday Night

“Who here has insecurities?”

Steve Rosenfield asked this of a crowd of about 300 BC students Monday night in Devlin 008. His beehive of dreadlocks bounced as, almost immediately, every hand in the audience shot up. It was a poignant beginning to a night of inspiration and support. Rosenfield’s “What I Be” campaign encourages people to embrace their insecurities by displaying them for others; BC’s edition of his project is no exception.

Rosenfield started the campaign in 2010 after photographing his friend with the words “Thunder Thighs” written on her hand. He explained to the crowd that before he started taking pictures, he had a hard time expressing his emotions to others. He had a comfortable job with Thomson Financial, where they filmed The Departed (which sounded more like The Depahted in his thick Boston accent). Rosenfield quickly realized, however, that he was not happy. He was materialistic, had a noticeable ego and felt that being a man meant that he could not show his feelings or express his sensitive side. He eventually decided that in order to be happy, he needed to do something different.

It was this realization that inspired Rosenfield to quit his job and uproot his life in pursuit of something more. He climbed mountains, wrote journals and began a fledgling photography career. His journey eventually landed him the job as the touring photographer for Michael Franti & Spearhead. Rosenfield had a lot of fun being a photographer for musicians, but felt like he needed to do something more meaningful with his art.

Photo courtesy of Steve Rosenfield Photography - What I Be Project / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Steve Rosenfield Photography - What I Be Project / Facebook

After brainstorming, he created his vision for the “What I Be” campaign, inspired by a Michael Franti song, and took the “Thunder Thighs” picture. At first all of the pictures were taken in his bedroom, with consent of course, and were later posted on Facebook. The project took off from there and soon found its way on to college campuses and eventually BC.

“This is definitely the coolest place I’ve been,” he told the crowd. It was, in part, because he didn’t have to hide his thick Bostonian accent, but also because of the impressive dedication our students showed towards his cause. There were 73 BC students who participated in the “What I Be” campaign, courageously exposing their insecurities and emphasizing that they will not let them control their lives. Last night, seven of these students presented their stories to the crowd. These included those pertaining to fitting in to the expectations of school, what it means to be a man, sexual assault, eating disorders, loneliness and even thoughts of suicide. It was an emotionally charged and inspiring experience, as many of the topics are usually too taboo for BC students to be open about because of a need to retain a spotless image.

Steve praised these students for their bravery, calling them warriors, and explained that by showing their insecurities to the world they are empowering themselves. Insecurities manifest themselves as secrets and are dangerous if they are not dealt with in a healthy way. Rosenfield was able to feel good about himself by talking about his insecurities and hopes to help others by allowing them to do the same. He explains that “It’s not mental health, it’s being human. What’s wrong with being human?”

Photo courtesy of UGBC / Facebook

Photo courtesy of UGBC / Facebook

He ended his presentation by encouraging us to act for others. “If you see someone struggling, do something. A time will come when you feel the same way and you will want someone else to do something for you.” We then took a giant selfie, which symbolized that, as a school, we support each other and are in this together.

Olivia Hussey and Ayse Belavic of UGBC coordinated the evening. They were inspired by Rosenfield’s “What I Be” campaign in the spring and knew that it needed to be brought to the BC campus. Olivia explained that a lack of dialogue about mental health and illness on campus inspired UGBC’s “Be Conscious” campaign. She also said that this conversation needs to continue to spread to the 9,000 students on campus. Mental health is an important and relevant issue at BC, and students should not feel the need to hide their problems to maintain a perfect image.

The phone number for BC’s University Counseling Services is 617-552-3310.

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