The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Students share their stories at ‘Dear World’

Andrew Cooper ’25 has “SELF MADE” written as part of his “brain tattoo” at the Dear World event on Oct 28. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Diego Perez ’23 stepped onto the gray photo background in front of the studio lights, set up in a bright corner of the library atrium, and faced the camera.

In black ink, the word “Don’t” was written on his neck and “conform” was written on the back of his hand, which was holding his neck. Perez is from Puerto Rico and has struggled to adjust to a new culture in the continental U.S.

“It’s just that process of finding myself and reinventing myself in these past two or three years,” Perez said of the words he chose to be inked on his body with a washable black marker. 

Perez was in the library on Oct. 28 as part of an event called Dear World, sponsored by University Student Senate, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, the Division of Student Life and the Dean’s Leadership program. Dear World is a national organization that visits college campuses, using storytelling and their message-on-skin style in order to build cultures of authenticity, inclusivity and purpose.

Diego Perez ’23 has his portrait taken by Alyssa Meadows, one of the Dear World photographers, at the event.

A committee of St. Joe’s students who brought Dear World to campus hosted three events as part of the organization’s visit: a VIP event for invited students, faculty and staff on Oct. 27, an open photoshoot for the entire campus community on Oct. 28 and a Story Celebration the night of the photoshoot to celebrate all the stories of those who had participated.

“I feel like it was a beneficial and healthy way for people to feel like they’re heard or get their voices out there,” said Mary Jane Okonji ’23, the St. Joe’s committee’s director of speaker spotlights. 

Dear World organizers refer to the written messages as “brain tattoos,” according to Tobi Akinyelure ’23, director of marketing for the Dear World St. Joe’s committee. They’re meant to be invitations to tell a story. 

“When people see the words in the black ink and the amazing pictures, they’re really like, ‘What does this mean? What are you trying to say?’” Akinyelure said.

At the photoshoot, participants like Perez first filled out a four-step form on their phones, provided through a QR code, to come up with their brain tattoo. This form required participants to think about memories, themes and values in their lives, leading them to craft a meaningful message designed to prompt others to ask about the story behind it. Volunteers helped write the messages on participants’ skin, and then they were photographed.  

“It was an outlet for students to really tell their stories without having to tell everyone their story,” Okonji said.

Patience Goodin ’23 (left) writes a “Brain Tattoo” on MJ Okonji ’23.

Akinyelure said he saw this event as an opportunity to bring about unity among minority groups on campus.

“We really wanted to expose people’s stories, bring minority groups to light, bring people who are in minority groups to light and just unite them on campus through Dear World and what Dear World is doing,” Akinyelure said.

The Dear World photoshoot was in the lobby of the Drexel Library.

Around 100 members of the St. Joe’s community participated in the photoshoot, according to Akinyelure. 

“I liked that it was about everybody coming together and celebrating one another and what a difference that we each have,” said Lauren Dicranian ’23, a participant in the event.  

At the Story Celebration, moderated by Wes Woodson, lead storyteller for the Dear World college tour, the community’s photos were displayed in a projected slideshow. Thirty-five participants attended this event and six students shared their stories in a student spotlight, Akinyelure said.

“We look for diversity,” Woodson said in reference to finding students to spotlight at the celebration. “We want to celebrate not only vulnerability, but also diversity on campus, which I don’t think is celebrated enough.”

Kayla Evans ’23, a co-president of the Dear World committee at St. Joe’s, said she’s found that Dear World brought the community together by getting people talking and by encouraging students from different places to be able to collaborate and share.

“Dear World allowed people to be way more personal with their stories,” Evans said. “It allowed people to dig deep into their own life, to see their own path and see what has shaped them.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *