Interview With BSU’s President Jada Daniel
Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect and educate ourselves about the powerful contributions of Black people around the world. Black History Month has been celebrated every February since 1976, and the month was originally expanded by Carter G. Woodson’s devotion and life’s work of showcasing the historic contributions of black people. Use not only this month, but the whole year to recognize and acknowledge the powerful contributions that Black people have made that paved the way for society and future generations.
On campus, members of Black Students United (BSU) have organized various events throughout the month to celebrate. The Round Table got a chance to sit down with Jada Daniels’23, BSU’s president for the 2021-2022 academic year to talk on her experience as a black woman in leadership on this campus as well as further discussing the events her exec team have organized on campus.
RT: Can you describe your involvement in BSU when you first came to Beloit or how you got involved?
JD: It started before freshman year. I was the prospect of Aryssa Harris’21 (former BSU president) for volleyball. She showed me the BSU house and told me she was the president of Black Students United, and I already love Aryssa so I had to be a part of it because she already gave me a sense of community that I was looking for. I was afraid of coming to a [Primary White Institute] and feeling like I didn’t have a safe space. I started going to meetings and I just felt safe there and like it was a family. And then as soon as Aryssa started talking about graduating and how she’s looking for a new exec, I kind of wanted to step up because it was something I was passionate about and I wanted to maintain the intentions of BSU, so I decided to run for president my sophomore year and I was elected.
RT: What were some of the things you wanted to do this semester or this school year?
JD: Me and my exec wanted to work on getting adjusted into Grace’s Place. Because when we came in like we had Grace’s Place but it still felt like Java Joint. And so we’re still in the process of trying to make it feel like BSU’s space. We have a sign, I mean we wanted a mural and you know that will come later on down the line but we just want to make sure that people know that they have access to that space and they can use it however way they want as long as its consistent with our goals and values but we just really want to make it BSU’s space and especially for “Black, Indigenous and People Of Color” (BIPOC) communities on campus.
RT: Do you have an idea of what you want the mural in Grace’s Place to be of?
JD: Of course we have to have a picture of Grace Ousley and maybe even her brother, because I feel like her and her brother defined not just Black history at Beloit but they kind of gave us footsteps that we need to walk in, like they left a lasting impression and legacy for BSU and Black students on campus. A lot of people don’t know about Grace Ousley or her brother, a lot of people don’t know about the Black history of Beloit. So something that reflects the Black history that is kind of hidden and pushed to the side in the college’s history.
We were thinking of two murals, one part when we do have alumni come in, which we want to but COVID restrictions, like alumni and recent graduates can leave their mark maybe like a handprint or something like they were there. “I was a part of this.”
RT: Can you speak a little more about what the opening of Grace’s Place looked like?
JD: Honestly, I feel like that’s the best event that BSU has put together since. Because not only were we remembering Grace Ousley, the first Black woman to graduate from the college in 1904 but it was a way for Black students and other students of color to gather together and it was very exciting for me to see Grace’s Place coming together and then seeing our members with a smile on their face. Overall it was just a very exciting event and it really felt like everything was coming together and especially the work that Aryssa had done before this exec and even the president’s before and even the Black Students United before we were even here.
RT: What are some of the topics discussed at BSU meetings this month, or what’s to come?
JD: The first meeting was kind of meant to set the tone and intentions of this Black History Month. And our theme for this year is Black joy and representation. Because a lot of times Black History Month tends to focus on the trauma and like our socio-political realities and while we’re not ignoring that we just want to take time to celebrate our excellence and beauty through Black joy.
RT: How has being in this leadership role shaped who you are today?
JD: When people ask me that I kind of get emotional because in highschool I wanted to go after leadership roles and positions but I didn’t have the best or supportive environment to do that, like I was scared and it was just a lot going on. But I felt like when I was elected into this leadership position I felt like I gained confidence because that’s something that I was missing, and I’m still working on it; confidence and communication skills, and I’m slowly but steadily understanding and defining my leadership style. It may not look the same in everybody and sometimes people do like to misinterpret the way that I lead and especially because there’s like this idea of the angry Black woman complex but I just feel like I’m more comfortable with being passionate and speaking up and being vocal because when you’re in a leadership role like this you have to be a voice of reason you have to talk to people and advocate for people you serve.