Student organizations at Douglass, including The Douglass Black Students' Congress (DBSC) and The Women's Center Coalition, came together this month to both empower current Black Douglass students while studying Black history at Douglass.
Ololade Aluko DRC’22, a health administration major, is a leading voice in those conversations. As the president of The Douglass Black Student Congress (DBSC), Aluko has worked on behalf of the student body to create safe spaces for Black Douglass students. Since going remote, DBSC has held virtual meetings where students come together to support one another.
“Leading DBSC has been one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had,” said Aluko. “We have meaningful meetings where we discuss topics that nobody else really talks about—often issues that affect the daily lives of Black college students specifically. It is important for us to be Black students in these spaces without having to feel like we have to cover up who we are for people who don’t understand how we’re feeling.”
This past month, DBSC hosted “Where Do We Go From Here?” a discussion event about the future of Black history post-2020. The group also works on a variety of topics, including challenges they may face once they leave college. Recently, they hosted had a meeting with an alumnae panel.
“We talked about how DBSC has shaped who we are,” said Aluko. “They also gave us insight on how to navigate the corporate world, particularly in spaces where we may be underrepresented.”
While DBSC has evolved over the course of its existence, Aluko notes that what has stayed the same has been the strength of the bonds between the students—a valued aspect of the group’s mission.
In the midst of these conversations, students looked to Douglass’ past to celebrate the efforts of Black student leaders throughout the College’s history. Kayo Denda is the head of the Margery Somers Foster Center & Librarian for Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies at the Douglass Library. There, she is in charge of collection development and services to the women’s, gender and sexuality studies communities on campus. Denda is also the co-author of The Douglass Century: Transformation of the Women's College at Rutgers University. This past month, the Women’s Center Coalition at Douglass hosted Denda to lecture on the history of Douglass student activism.
“I was very pleased they were so interested in Douglass history,” said Denda. “It’s really important, particularly after the events of last summer, to tie in the history of the College to current events—to show them the power they have as students to affect change.”
As co-author of The Douglass Century, Denda wrote the section on student activism. Her talk with WCC focused on the work of groups organizing on campus throughout the College’s history.
“It’s a critical part of the College’s story, and I wanted to communicate that importance to the students,” said Denda. “A coalition of student groups made change happen. The students I spoke to really admired the work of those before them. The structures those students fought for—including thematic houses, courses, and the Equal Opportunity Fund—still exist today.”
Denda notes how much she enjoyed talking to the students, and that their drive to transform the world is part of a long tradition of student organizers at Douglass.