BSU holds empowerment event

By The Elm - Apr 11,2019@12:00 am

By Victoria Gill

Elm Staff Writer

This past Thursday the Black Student Union (BSU) addressed an evening of sisterhood and stories with the question: “Are you good, Sis?” 

The club advertised the event “All Walks of Life:  A Letter to My Younger Self” to prioritize the open discussion of female empowerment. A panel of eight female leaders on campus, women from the Admissions Office, Center for Career Development, Alumni House, and Office of Student Engagement, shared their personal challenges as college students.

“We hope you leave here with full bellies and full souls,” sophomore Jada Aristilde, social chair of the BSU, said. 

The panel was made up of Assistant Director for Multicultural Admission Lisa-Nicole Smith, Associate Director of Student Financial Aid Erneatka Webster, Assistant Dean for Curricular Enrichment Tya Pope, Assistant Director of Student Engagement Sarah Tansits, Assistant Director of Alumni Programming Maria Hynson, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of the Public Health Minor Dr. Elizabeth Yost, and alumna Christalyn (who did not include her last name to make an observation about legacy).

“I get to share a piece of my soul and journey with you today,” Smith said.

They discussed different forms of adversity surrounding the experiences of first-generation students, children from abusive homes, and the single mothers – those raised by one or those raising children of their own. 

Christalyn began the two-hour panel by asking “Who Do You Think You Are?” 

“Remember who you are and whose you are,” Christalyn said when reflecting on the expectations of her well-known parents while growing up in Chestertown. 

“I know these expectations are known to you all, but when I came on this campus to find community, I found something more,” Christalyn said. 

The point of her story was to explain the pressure of upholding legacies. 

According to Christalyn, this unknowingly forced her to become someone else and do things that did not match her true self.

Pope spoke of her childhood timidity and the importance of asking for help. 

“People literally jumped when they heard my voice because they didn’t think I had one,” Pope said. 

Pope spoke of the compassion of her after school theater teacher who took her under his wing as she witnessed the production process of “The Miracle Worker.” 

According to Pope, this show had a profound effect on how she carried herself through life.

“There was a point where Helen stopped resisting and started to learn. Every time I see that show I bawl like a baby, because it taught me how to use my voice,” Pope said. 

Pope learned how to use her voice when figuring out when to ask for help. Entering college as a first-generation student, with a bundle of financial support, Pope found college challenging.

“I must have lost my mind. I didn’t know who I was anymore,” Pope said.

She regrets the lack of connections she made with her peers and professors but urged students to take the time to be conscious of when to reach out.

“Once upon a time, there was a time where there wasn’t social media, no cell phones to connect to. You actually had to talk to people and deal with your stuff,” Smith said. 

Smith was a basketball star her freshman year of college, but transferred due to her lack of passion for the game. She and the panelists talked about their academic struggles. 

According to Smith, she knew she could have done better if it wasn’t for fear.   

“When you have lack of education, you think that your skills are limited,” Smith said.

While she didn’t graduate valedictorian, Smith said her family celebrated her graduation like she was one. 

“It took an idea somewhere that I could do that,” Smith said.

Smith recounted the opportunities for growth and destruction. The amount of lost experiences, according to her, had to do with the fear of not being enough.

“I had to consciously miss every opportunity to continue that cycle,” Smith said.

Smith had the intimate group of audience members and panelists consistently chuckling at her openness about her teenage years, and in tears over the encouragement she gave to the young women who had come to listen. 

None of these women take shame in the paths they created for themselves. As Smith put it, they earned a place at this table and earned a place to make themselves heard.

“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And I’m worth it,” Smith said.

The Elm

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