Being a Black student at a predominantly white institution can be a complex experience. The feeling of not belonging can be felt by Black students in any space where the majority is occupied by white people.
IU is not exempt from these feelings and, at IU, Black students’ experiences are impacted by their identity. Black students currently make up around 4% of the entire IU student body, and Black students certainly feel like the minority on this campus. As a political science major, I am often the only person of color in my class.
Jordan Davis, an IU senior in the Kelley School of Business, has attributed much of her leadership success to a lack of representation.
“What kept me going was recognizing a major lack of representation in these leadership roles on campus,” Davis said. “As my schedule began to fill up, I prioritized positions where I wanted to see a Black woman lead and make a significant impact that would positively affect younger Black women coming after me.”
Davis is the vice president of outreach for Kelley Student Government and was recently awarded the 2022 Wells Student Recognition Award for her exceptional work at IU. While Davis has left a significant mark on this campus, it did not come without issues.
“I have noticed times where I'm leading a group of white students and I sense an initial lack of trust and confusion,” Davis said. “I also feel like I have had to work 1,000 times as hard as most of my white peers just to get the same level of respect.”
Davis said she has had many challenging experiences as a Black woman student leader on this campus but has found hope in others.
“When I've been discouraged as a Black woman leading this university, I always find reassurance in myself knowing that students five years from now won't have to deal with the same things I did, and that makes everything worth it,” Davis said.
Much like Davis, I also find joy and comfort in my work not being done in vain. The generations to come will be able to reap the benefits of the work being done now. I know other Black students feel the same, and these experiences should always hold value within this institution.
Caliel Hines is a senior and a strong campus student leader here at IU. As the Vice President of the 100th Board of Aeons and a neuroscience major, Hines is an example of Black success here on campus and I have had the pleasure of serving in the Cabinet of Student leaders with him.
While Hines is grateful for his experiences and opportunities, he feels there is still work to be done to improve the Black and marginalized experiences on this campus.
Hines said he comes from multiple marginalized communities, one is Black and the other comes from being a member of the Apostolic- Christian faith. Hines was not always intentional about getting involved on campus, but he felt it was necessary.
“Early in my academic career I noticed several challenges facing my peers, particularly those from a marginalized background, that I just couldn’t overlook anymore,” Hines said.
Apart from his role in the Board of Aeons, Hines serves on the Dean of Students Cabinet of Student Leaders, which has also been a predominantly white space. He’s defied odds and shown Black students can do everything those in the majority can.
“I determined what being Black, male, and religious looked like for me and I shared these perspectives with IU in the most cordial and constructive way possible,” Hines said.
For many Black student leaders, serving others is at the forefront of our minds. Being of service is a trait many communities on the margin can identify with.
While these are only perspectives of two Black leaders on this campus, many more follow.
While we may be few in number, the Black community here at IU is mighty.