What does it mean to be Black in university?

Serious african young man writing and learning in the park

When I am asked the question of what does it mean to be Black in university, I often wonder what it means to be Black in everything. To me this is a loaded question that can be looked at through different lenses. So let’s start here. What does it mean to be Black around and with other non-Black people and what does it mean to be Black around other Black people? 

Here is the thing, many of us have seen or heard about the injustices that have occurred in the Black community; from slavery, red lining, Jim Crow, police brutality, the war on drugs, and the list goes on. These are some of the injustices that injured the Black society for generations to come. But there is also another thing that hurts the Black society; the need to be against each other. 

In the United States, you may have heard a lot about Black on Black crime, status segregation, the broken home, colourism, or even how you are not Black enough. Although some of us made it through all of the things that happened to us from outside of our community, we still had to deal with and overcome the issues within. Going to a university can be no different. 

I remember going to school as a kid and because I spoke proper English and not Ebonics or slang, I was not Black enough. But then on the other side, because of the color of my skin, I was definitely not able to fit in with other ethnic communities. When I was going to college to obtain my Bachelors degree, it was no different. There were many that wanted to segregate me because of me being Black, while there were others that wanted to segregate me because I wasn’t Black enough. Confusing? It was to me too. The good thing is that between my Bachelors degree and going to Grad school, there was over a decade in between the two. 

Over the course of that decade, so many things and movements happened that helped people to understand the struggles of the Black community as well as helping the Black community to understand ourselves. The Black community started to take part in facing and understanding the fact that there was a lot that they needed to heal from and also actually doing the work in order to heal not just continue to be in a less authoritative position of victimhood. We as people can talk about the problem like a broken record but the hard truth of the matter is that talking about and implementing solutions is what is key for our recovery and advancement.

By going to Grad school at a university that focused on holistic wellness and integration, I was able to join a Black activist organisation by the name of BAIACA and became the secretary and Youth and Social Justice Director that focused more on the solutions that would empower the Black community, rather than the issues that will continue to keep us in victimhood and lack of self evolution. 

In the end, as I reflect over the many years of going to university as a Black woman, the experiences that we have at the place where we decide to study, is essential to our growth and evolution as human beings and at the core, as Black people. Adopting the understanding that healing and advancement is more in the solutions that we choose to create and implement is crucial for us to decide to choose as Black women in university.