This semester a new student support group, Black Voices, formed to provide a space for black students to process their experiences as a minority on campus.
Kimberly Burdine, diversity coordinator for the Counseling and Mental Health Center, facilitates discussions within the group involving race relations, gender equality, mass incarceration and police brutality, among other issues.
Burdine said as more people become aware of anti-black racism, there tends to be a curiosity or confusion among non-black people. She emphasizes that Black Voices is
primarily a place for black students to talk about black issues among themselves.
“One of the things that would be very helpful and important to do is not make [understanding black issues] the work of black people,” Burdine said. “Then you’ve made the work of understanding your privilege that of somebody else, and that perpetuates the stress and perpetuates the trauma that people experience.”
Psychology freshman Patience Ojionuka plans to attend Black Voices and said an open dialogue between students of all different backgrounds is important for progress on race issues.
“Often times the best thing white allies can do is to listen and to support,” Ojionuka said. “That happens by us having conversations about racism. That is the biggest thing allies can do is to try to make a difference without speaking over the voices of people of color.”
The group meets in the Gordon White Building, the same building that houses the African and African diaspora studies department, an intentional choice, Burdine said. She said it is important to create partnerships with departments that are explicit about their support of and the affirmation of black student experiences.
“A part of my role as diversity coordinator is thinking about and creating programming, resources, therapy services, counseling and mental health services that speak to the need of students who are currently or historically marginalized on campus,” Burdine said.
Similarly, We Rise! A Space for Students of Color Healing from Racism, also began this semester. Kathryn Redd, assistant director for prevention and outreach for the CMHC, said she hopes the group will provide therapeutic support for people dealing with racism.
“We Rise! is a group for students who are feeling the negative consequences of being in an environment where they’re dealing with issues of racism both personally and also experiencing the effects of what that means when we hear about these issues happening nationally as well,” Redd said.