feature: the role of the black college student

December 29, 2014

Back then when they led those marches in the south they chanted, “We Shall Overcome”. When they thought marching wasn’t enough they began shouting passionately with fists in the air, “Black Power”. Today, we scream, “Black Lives Matter” with fire burning in our hearts. The role of the black college student has always been to liberate their minds.

By Phillip Jackson, AFROPUNK Contributor  

 The burden of being a black college student while living in America that was a product of Jim Crow was never a simple task. Before my generation, black students were fighting for their human rights on a daily basis. These students recognized what they needed, they saw what was necessary for them to be able to trump over the “American Dream”.

Ella Baker established the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee in 1960 which served as a coalition for black students to fight for their human rights in America. Black students like James Meredith were integrating colleges like Ole Miss that were infested with racism.

Just to picture yourself as a student—surrounded by white students in Mississippi where 581 lynching’s occurred is almost unimaginable. But, it was the fight inside Meredith where he was able to show his courage, which ultimately turned into an inspirational occurrence in the Civil Rights Movement. As Stokely Carmichael soon turned the perspective of SNCC, black students became aware of the Black Power Theory.

All of these people’s efforts mentioned above can never go unnoticed. And one thing that all of these people who are now known as some of the most influential African-Americans have in common is that they were black college students. They understood the role of the black college student.

Today in what people call the millennial generation, it seems that we are also taking those same steps that were taken before us. As a current black college student living amidst the troubles of police brutality that gets put on national television, racism that’s experienced on social media, and the fight of having to prove yourself to other students who may not be the same skin color—it seems that we are still fighting a war that we planned to end over 50 years ago.

It is our right, our job and our role as black college students to fight for what we believe in. If we believe that killings done by people who are sworn to protect is injustice, we shall voice our opinion on that issue. If we feel that we need to march in the streets in order to be heard, than we will make them hear us. But understand that the role of being a black college student is not just a privilege, but it is also an honor because you are depleting the stereotype that some people want to categorize you in.

As black college students we have to realize that we must become united with each other. We do not need any division between students that attend Historically Black Colleges and Predominantly White Colleges. When students receive their college diploma and enter the working field, the reality of being the minority hits you in the gut. Just as you might have been the only black student in the room in class at a PWI, you may have that same experience in your meetings at work.

And for the HBCU students, we also will have to adapt to a new environment but still understand that our opinions at business meetings matter. With the protests that have occurred because of the killings of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride and now Antonio Martin we should take notice of their ages. All of these people were murdered and none of them were over the age of 19 years old. For many of black college students, including myself, that’s only their sophomore year in school.

The impact black college students have made in America is documented. But it is up to our generation of college students to define their role and continue to progress black people as a culture.

* Phillip Jackson’s blog: emancipatemywords.blogspot.com