My Journey to Leadership as a Student of Color at a PWI, Part III

Part III

My initial response after being corrected by my peers was to do all the work Cynthia Fulfordmyself. I told myself that I did not need the stress of being criticized when I had done my part. I had delegated properly. I had also followed-up with the member in a timely manner. I decided to begin planning events that I wanted to see. I hired speakers to teach us about our cultural contribution in history, but was one of only a handful that attended those events. The social events were better attended. For example, I hired a local African American Dance Troupe to teach us African Dances and worked with others to plan a Midnight Bowling trip.

Soon, however, I grew tired. I was focusing more on diversity programming and my grades began to suffer. I had to get refocused. The programming events that we offered was necessary for our own cultural development, as well as weekend activities since most of us were without a vehicle. However, I had to rethink how I was leading. The fear of failure or being embarrassed by poor programming initially tried to consume me. Similar to many student or young leaders, I thought, if I am the leader of this organization poor programming, will reflect on me. My mentors taught me that was not the case. In fact, one faculty mentor told me that no one would remember any student failures, because they are expected. However, you will be remembered for doing something great!

My two greatest accomplishments as an undergraduate student were the founding of the Black Student Union (BSU) and hosting the college’s first NPHC (Black Greek) Step Show with over 400 diverse students from colleges and universities in the greater Pittsburgh/West Virginia area. The BSU represented a commitment by the college to support the racial and cultural development of the African American Students. The college leadership was taking their first step in acknowledging that we mattered to the college and the student body. The Step Show represented my desire to bring an African American cultural Greek event to campus for the student body to enjoy.

The BSU came into existence because I was taught the value of win-win arguments and negotiations. An upper class black male student who had been trying to get a BSU on campus for years approached me. He and two other Black male students had been working on developing a constitution, but felt that they had reached a roadblock with administration. However, they felt that I had the social capital with administration to make this happened and wanted me to make it happen. Initially, I was reluctant because it was time for someone else to have the opportunity to be a campus leader. I offered to assist in anyway I could, but lost the argument because the founding of this group was just as important to me as it was to others. I thought these gentlemen would help me make this happen, but they found all kind of reasons to not have the availability to help. I was on my own.

What happened next was the beginning of my journey and love for being and teaching leadership to others.

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