For the first time since the organization’s start in 2002, Student Government Association’s executive board consists of all black students. In honor of Black History Month, the SGA board spoke with The Chronicle about becoming leaders on campus, the importance of representation and their definitions of black boy joy and black girl magic.
THE CHRONICLE: What does it mean to be in a leadership position on an all-black executive board?
VERONIQUE HALL: It’s an honor. When I came to this school, I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to make change on this campus, whether it was through Student Government Association or through any other thing I did on my own.
The fact that I’m on the board with all of these amazing and incredible black leaders who have the exact same vision and professionalism and drive that I do, it is the most incredible and inspiring feeling.
As members of a minority group, do you ever feel intimidated about being leaders in the community?
It’s more empowering. Change only happens when you take that first step. It might be hard and you might get backlash, or you might be in seriously scary experiences, but change isn’t going to happen if you just stand back there and be scared and not do anything. We came here to achieve our goals. And we have to achieve our goals by making those scary first steps, whether it’s with administration or dealing with people within the South Loop. It’s not scary. It makes us work better.
What is your definition of black girl magic?
Black girl magic is making your black existence and experience known everyday.
How does it feel to be the leader of the first all-black SGA board?
MALIK WOOLFORK: It feels great. We have this way of communicating with each other that is natural but also allows us to communicate with the student body in a more personable way. It is easier for us to relate to students having issues with regards to the election and immigration. We can relate to the Columbia students [easier].
It is a different type of energy. It is one of the first times we have been able to have an executive board meeting and be able to discuss some serious topics, but at the same time, we are playing jazz in the background. It allows me to see how diverse the black race is because none of us are the same person. There are three of us that come from Ohio, but we are from different parts of Ohio. Our backgrounds and our focuses in college are different.
It really shows how just because the whole board is of African-American students, it doesn’t mean we are all the same. We are able to challenge each other on our thoughts, which you can do with any member on our board.
What do black boy and girl magic and melanin poppin’ mean to you?
Those are things that as a black male, I would have never thought that this would be such a big thing, but it is because throughout media, throughout history, there has not always been positive images of black males shown.
Black males have always been the threat. If you see black males, it is either sports, someone getting arrested, someone got into some type of news scandal. There is never anything positive. Just to point out that black boys are happy, enjoying life and growing. We smile. We listen to music. Everything is not bad or horrible for us. It changes the narrative of the black male.
When I first saw the hashtag for black boy joy, people were really enjoying it just because it was a picture of this black male smiling. When I thought about it, we don’t see it as much in media. It is just another way in black culture to share our culture and our experience and our lifestyle with the rest of the world. Just thinking about it makes me happy.
Melanin poppin’ means accepting yourself and celebrating your blackness—however you may define that. Every black person has a different definition of what it means to be black. It should not be required to have us think of only one type of black person. My black boy magic, my black boy joy, my melanin poppin’ is all different from others, but that is what makes me, me.
What do you want people to know about being black?
FRITA BEAUCHAMP: We have to work two times harder. There is a certain way we have to present ourselves. If we say we are going to do something and if we say we are going to email a certain administrator on campus, we have to follow through with it. Because we are an all-black eboard, we don’t want to show up late to anything. We always want representation present at events because we don’t want it to go back to, “You know, they are an all-black eboard.” We always have to work two times harder in almost everything.
How do you advise others to handle white supremacy?
You can’t get through to people like that. People like that don’t want to be open minded; they don’t want to see change. They want to stay angry and mad. Keep fighting, keep speaking your mind, keep fighting for what it is worth but don’t waste your energy on those ignorant people. Speak to [white supremacists] and try to get through to them, but there is only so much you can do and say. It’s not going to change their mind. Don’t stop fighting, just find other avenues. Keep minding your business, speaking your mind and keep going to the government with your issues.
Why is it important to celebrate being black?
JAZMIN BRYANT: Years of sacrifice and years of enslavement; we know the stories and the unfortunate things that happened through history. It’s crucial to be honest with ourselves and where we’ve come from and how we came and celebrate that.
How do you celebrate being a black woman?
Just by surrounding myself with other black women and other people who can relate to me and even women just in general. Just uplifting one another and really inspiring one another. We are better together than apart as women and as black women, it is just important. A lot of times black women are competing with one another. The best thing we can do is uplift one another and be more positive and be more friendly and loving toward one another.
Do you ever feel like you are more in the hot seat because you are a black person in a leadership position?
CAMERON HUBERT: Yes. But when I walk into these spaces, I don’t have a sense of self. I walk in as a member of the student body. Maya Angelou said,“I come as one but stand as 10,000,” That speaks to this position beautifully. I’m voicing the fires within me because of what students are telling me. My job is to make sure I put the other people in the hot seat if need be.
What should people who are not black know about Black History Month?
It should serve as a reminder of where we’ve come from as a country and never revert back to those older ideologies. We are all one people and this month should be a reminder that there have been trailblazers in all of these minority communities that paved the way for what we do today. We can all be great leaders if given the opportunity. We have a long way to go but we have come really far.