Passionate campus leaders, creative artists and actors, supportive Community Assistants, and caring students who work to keep the campus community safe; St. Lawrence University celebrates Black History Month by honoring the Laurentians who have a positive impact on our community each day.
(Note: some responses have been edited for length.)
Hometown: Manhattan, New York
Major: Performance and Communication Arts (PCA)
What drew you to study PCA and Education? I love art in any form. Art has this very underrated and amazing way of bringing people together. I think if we had no art, then a lot of life and culture wouldn’t have a foundation. I chose performance art specifically because I enjoy telling stories. The best parts of our lives are stories that we look back on and we share with other people. The best way for me to share stories is through theater. You watch a show and forget about anything you're going through and have a good time, or it makes you confront the realities of what others go through and encourages you to change. I have a dream of tying in theater with education. I hope I can teach people about the injustices of the world and how to better their situations through performance.
What has been one of your favorite roles in a campus production at St. Lawrence? I really enjoyed being Orcus in “She Kills Monsters” this past fall semester. It was the first semester that we were all back on stage together. This show also came at a time when there was a lot of stress with classes and other things that were going on. It was my favorite role because I was able to make so many people laugh. Honestly, just being able to provide that joy with an amazing cast was unforgettable. The show came at the perfect time, and I think I needed it too.
Of everything you’ve been involved with at St. Lawrence, what would you consider your proudest achievement? I'm definitely most proud of BLI, not only for its existence but also for what it has done, such as creating grants for students of color on campus. When institutions like St. Lawrence do not have groups like the BLI, things can fall between the cracks. If you care for any community you are in, it's important to speak out because you want to make it better.
I’m also proud to be a part of the Esports team. We've made it to playoffs basically every single season!
What does it mean to you to be a Black Laurentian? More than anything, it is being proud of who you are and where you're from, no matter what you're told or what you've experienced. In a lot of places, including predominantly white institutions, being a student of color can be very difficult at times. There are certain things that you think a little bit more about, like “what does this person think about me?” Or “am I the only person of color in the classroom?” But the way you speak, your culture, your skin color, the way your hair looks, the way you look—these are yours and nobody can take them away from you. These are things that you should be proud of. You deserve to be here. That's something that I really want to emphasize, you deserve to be here just like anybody else.
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland
What inspired you to run for president of the Advocates (an on-campus group of students dedicated to supporting survivors of and raising awareness about sexual violence)? I have run into people that have faced sexual abuse and been in situations myself that are uncomfortable. I felt like it took me forever to be comfortable speaking up about the experiences I have had and also speaking about other experiences of others and to be a voice for them. When I decided to become president, I was in a situation where I was comfortable enough to speak up for myself and also to look out for others. It just took me a while to get there.
What do you hope to achieve with the Advocates, especially as President, over this semester? When we host trainings this semester, we want to make it possible that University staff members can also participate and be able to help. We want to extend our services by organizing and collaborating with different groups on campus.
We also want to reach out to and train students who are from diverse, ethnic backgrounds, students of color, and international students. We want to have multiple language options so people can speak in whatever language they feel most comfortable in.
Why did you decide to work at the COVID clinics? I want to go into the medical field. I felt like it would be a good experience for me to help people in a pandemic in the best way I could. When I applied, there was a demand for students to dedicate their time to this job. In the midst of a pandemic, I helped people make sure that they knew what their status was and helped them feel prepared. That felt good.
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Major: Global Studies
Which of your involvements on campus do you find most rewarding and why? I'm the diversity and inclusion chair for Thelmo and a member of BLI (Black Laurentian Initiative), which is a coalition of students on-campus who work to achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion. Being able to come up with ideas and watching those ideas come to fruition and having the rest of the campus recognize BLI as an organization is satisfying.
Thelmo is rewarding because being a part of something large, such as student government, is big for me. I'm a government minor, so I'll use that experience for some position in the future. Helping the junior executive board work towards diversity and inclusion for clubs and organizations on campus is a good feeling.
What does it mean to you to be a Black Laurentian? It's very important because as a Black Laurentian I feel valued here. But there are some days when I don't feel as though I'm noticed. There are good days and there are bad days. I’ve experienced a little bit of both. I'm proud to be a member of BLI because it's bigger than just me. It's about being a part of a group of students who have similar views and ideas. I'm very proud of helping BLI collaborate with other campus groups and build relationships with members of the administration, like Kimberly Flint-Hamilton [Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion] and Karl Schonberg [Vice President & Dean Academic Affairs].
Hometown: Glenarden, Maryland.
Major: Psychology; Art and Art History
What kind of art do you create? For a while, I was just making art as a hobby. As I got older, my intersectionality started becoming more important to me and so did my race and gender, so I got more involved in social issues. I started making more art about issues affecting not only me but also other students of color. The work that I currently have in the gallery explores how religion has been whitewashed throughout the centuries. As someone who is struggling with spirituality and religion, I felt a disconnection between my race and what I see being portrayed as an idea of religion. I wanted to rewrite that for myself and for others.
What is one of the most powerful pieces of art that you've created? It was a painting series that featured portraits of various black women with different hairstyles. The series alludes to the Crown Act (legislation passed in various states that prohibits discrimination based on hair), which was passed a couple of years ago. I wanted to do something to celebrate and shed light on that progression. I was also still finding my place here and still kind of insecure about my hair because I changed it a lot.
I love changing my hair. It's like another art form for me. I wanted to do something to celebrate that, especially knowing so many black females. I wanted them to see and feel comfortable with themselves and know progress is being made and that it's also okay to embrace their hair too.
What made you decide to be a Community Assistant (CA)? My freshman year I had a CA who was so amazing. I loved the idea of being a CA and helping other students acclimate and be comfortable on campus. Also, I liked the idea of meeting people I probably wouldn't have if I had not been a CA, because I am kind of a reserved person. This has really helped me grow and made me explore more. I just really like helping others.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Major: Mathematics; Business in the Liberal Arts
As house coordinator for the Black Student Union (BSU) House, what have been some of your favorite collaborations with other theme houses? We’ve done collabs with a lot of theme houses; Commons College, the Outing Club, and the L.I.G.H.T. house. The collaboration with the L.I.G.H.T. house during my sophomore year is one of my favorites. We had a potluck during the summer and everybody cooked food from their culture. People made so many different foods, and it was just like a vibe. I was connecting with people. We did ice breakers to get to know each other and it was something I never got to do my freshman year because I wouldn't open myself up to meet new people. As a sophomore, that was probably one of my first experiences actually meeting new people that I wouldn't usually speak to.
If you could tell your first-year self anything, what would you tell him? I would say, “stop questioning yourself. Just do it. You’re only here for four years.” I questioned a lot of things. Now I'm getting more comfortable with the campus and I'm doing stuff that I wouldn't normally do. After this conversation, I'm actually going to a meeting to see if I can go skiing this week. I wouldn't have done that my freshman or sophomore year.
What does it mean to you to be a Black Laurentian? Being able to express my culture, even when I'm surrounded by people that don't understand it and don’t see my culture every day. Coming to St. Lawrence was already coming out of my comfort zone because I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, I never experienced anything like St. Lawrence. So I guess being a Black Laurentian means expressing your culture in an environment where it's not usually seen.