When I was approached to be the founding editor of the Black Voices section at the end of June, I had no idea what to expect. I knew this section was something I was going to care for deeply — even though I was not sure what exactly it would look like just yet.
Last week, after our talented staffers' inaugural semester building the section, a fellow Black IU student reached out to me. He told me he felt like Black Voices was one of his accomplishments just by reading our pieces. This is how I hope every underrepresented student at IU feels. I hope they feel like this section belongs to them because it does.
It belongs to all of us.
The journey to get here was longer than just one semester — and although we have just scratched the surface, I think we have built something everyone can be proud of. We covered how minority communities would be impacted by the 2020 election, exposed racially charged situations on campus and created artwork in honor of victims of racial injustice.
We published more than 100 pieces — including 14 poems, seven cartoons and 15 student video profiles. Student profiles included videos on why Black voices matter. Contributor RJ Crawford said working on this series was his favorite part of the semester.
[Read our Black Voices coverage here]
“My favorite part of Black Voices so far has been the connections I’ve formed with various Black students on campus,” he said. “Learning about them and the different things they’re involved in inspires me to do more and be greater than great. There are so many talented, smart and courageous individuals at IU, and I love using my platform to introduce them to a larger community.”
“As a Black woman at a PWI, I don’t often see that on the regular at IU,” she said. “It was important to me that I use my voice because I have things to say and conversations I’d like to start.”
This semester, we have doubled our staff. We plan to focus more on multimedia content, assuring our pieces are interactive and engaging.
One reporter will start a series of interviews with different groups on campus, and we will post them on social media. To keep it engaging, he plans to always incorporate a “random” element such as eating unique foods or freestyling a song during the interview. Additionally, three contributors will spearhead a sports interview series, which will highlight athletes of color and focus on getting to know them outside of their sport.
While we will continue to produce informative, written stories for our audience, these new initiatives will add an engaging element to our growing section. There will also be a scholarship available for contributors, which will help fund a media internship and assure they are able to continue to work on their craft.
Long term, the section will continue to grow and become a staple in not just the IDS, but IU as a whole. I see the section building a heightened sense of community for Black IU. We are currently working on creating an annual Black Voices awards ceremony that will celebrate organizations on campus that never fail to amplify and uplift the voice of minority students on campus. This will allow students from diverse backgrounds to come together and be proud of changes they are making on campus.
Before our first desk meeting at the beginning of August, I was nervous. I was nervous about saying the right things. I was nervous people would not show up. I wanted everything to be alright, but deep down I was not completely sure I knew what I was doing.
But a group of 11 talented people took a chance on this section. They are the reason Black Voices has been able to grow exponentially during its first semester.
Bailey Jackson, Dhayshaneil Booker, Adrianne Embry, Amaiya Branigan, Aniya Lyons, Donyá Collins, Garrett Simms, Jaicey Bledsoe, RJ Crawford, Alex Petit and my co-editor, Nick Telman, were all members last semester.
From journalistic pieces to poetry to graphic design, there was no shortage of ways Black students expressed themselves and shared their stories. Each of these contributors is special, and I’m so proud of who they are — and who they are becoming right before my eyes.
While changes will inevitably be made, the section will always stay true to its mission to amplify the voice of underrepresented students on campus and educate the community.
Black Voices founding editor