This is me: How three Black leaders are making their community on campus
February 26, 2023
Black History Month serves as a reminder for the accomplishments and endurance of African Americans to senior Shumyla Wright, but the observance also challenges her to keep going and follow the path paved by those throughout history.
Being black has impacted Wright all through her life, and that hasn’t faltered throughout her college journey. As a history major, the senior is aware of the small quantity of black students, especially black women, in her classes.
“It does feel discouraging sometimes, but I’m here for my degree so I just keep pushing,” Wright said. “One day I will find people like me and my major.”
As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Wright has been pushed to be a better leader. Before her involvement in the chapter, she found herself in smaller roles, like being a mentor for NKU R.O.C.K.S. She later rose to vice president of her sorority chapter and then president of the entire National Pan-Hellenic Council.
Being a black leader on campus comes with a unique set of challenges, the senior said.
There have been times when Wright doesn’t feel she is taken as seriously as other campus leaders, or that she has to work harder to prove herself. Especially within the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Wright said the group must be on its best behavior at all times.
There has been growth, though, since the senior came to NKU in 2019. She recalled incidents of racism that heightened around the time of the pandemic, compared to now having seen two black Student Government Association presidents and the return of the National Pan-Hellenic Council step show tradition, which includes black Greek organizations performing choreographed strolls or steps in representation of their chapter.
The history major pointed out that the black community at NKU is of a small size, but Wright said all it takes to find your community is a trip to the third floor of the Student Union.
“If you just leave your dorm, come to the SU and just talk to people, you’re gonna find your family here at NKU because the support here is endless,” Wright said.
On any given day, junior Prosper Jibunor can be seen strolling around campus, striking up conversation with strangers.
Such actions are inspired by Jibunor’s desire for NKU to be a more open campus, one where people of all kinds see and value others.
“That’s how I made my first friend [at NKU],” Jibunor said. “I was just chilling eating food and this dude was like, ‘Hey, can I eat with you?’ And he was like, ‘I’d rather eat with somebody that looks like me than eat alone.’”
While being black is certainly a part of the junior’s identity, he feels there are many more facets that make him who he is.
“Number one on the list is definitely Christianity, and that takes the most precedence concerning how I see myself,” Jibunor said. “Second, I’m Nigerian. Third, I’m the fourth of six siblings and the son of my parents. Then being black is under that.”
Jibunor feels that being black can sometimes impact how others see him. He also thinks that sometimes the stereotypes driven by the media can affect how the black community sees itself.
Getting plugged in at various Christian organizations, African American Student Initiatives and his job with University Housing has helped the applied software engineering major find his community. He wants to see more involvement with campus events, though, especially those highlighting the black community. He believes it’s important to explore other cultures, meet new people and know that the campus community is for everyone.
For freshman Bryanna Hall, transitioning from a diverse high school in Cincinnati to a predominantly white institution came with its own challenges.
Hall worked to get involved with NKU R.O.C.K.S. (Responsibility, Opportunity, Community, Knowledge and Success), a program that helps students make a smooth transition from high school to college. During her first semester, Hall grew to become the president of R.O.C.K.S., an experience that she says has been one of the best of her life. She believes the leadership skills and community she has gained will be vital for her, as she has her eyes set on becoming a CEO for a nonprofit organization in the sports field after graduation.
Being black is an integral part of Hall’s identity, and she said this part of her identity shows her strength.
“It shows me how strong I am mentally, physically, and that I’m born to be strong,” Hall said.
The freshman talked about some of the obstacles facing the black community today, such as employers being required to hire diversity.
“You sometimes wonder, do you hire me because of my color, or are you hiring me because of what I’m worth,” Hall questioned.
The freshman emphasized her openness to answering questions and curiosities about her culture. She even uses a similar practice to familiarize herself with other groups on campus, like Latinos Avanzado Mentorship Program (LAMP).
“I asked a friend who was Latino, ‘What is LAMP?’ Because I really want to learn, so please feel free to ask a question,” Hall said.
While there can sometimes be prejudice between Africans and African Americans, Hall reminded that it’s important to respect one another even though they are not the same.
“We’re not all the same, but we are all family,” Hall said.