Being Black at a predominately white institution can be very lonely.
To go from being a big shark in the pond at your high school to now being a little fish in an ocean is a challenge. As a Black college student at a predominantly white institution, it can be even scarier.
Certain questions begin to creep in leading up to this new phase in your life. “Will I be the only Black student in my class?” “Will there be other students who look like me?” However, the Black student community at Ohio State makes all those questions float away.
Here are tips to truly enjoy “the best for years of your life.” Your black experience at a PWI is what you make it, and here’s how you make it.
If you are interested in engaging with the Black student population, then becoming a part of a Black organization is your best bet. The end goal of these organizations is to connect Black students and promote Black culture.
At Ohio State there is the Black Student Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, African Youth League, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, National Society of Black Engineers, National Association of Black Journalists, Society of Sisters, Band of the Brothers, and so many more organizations run by the Black student body.
The understanding of unity in these groups helps students feel like more than just a number.
As secretary of African Youth League, Stacey Moutima, a third-year health sciences major, reminisced about her first experience attending an AYL student body meeting.
“If I’m in a situation where I don’t know anyone or feel comfortable, I keep to myself and I try to take up as little space as possible,” Moutima said. “And when I came to AYL my freshman year, they didn’t let that happen. They made sure I was comfortable and was being included in everything.”
Based on that experience, she hopes to use her position to welcome new members this upcoming school year and to share the same community she was given as a freshman.
Leah Davis, a fifth-year Spanish major and president of Natural and Prosperous Society, has a goal for this school year to enhance their mission statement of celebrating natural hair and educating the Ohio State community with history, hair styling and maintenance, and personal stories.
“Being at a PWI, it is important for the Black students to have a safe place to come to in the big Ohio State community,” Davis said.
Being a Black student at a PWI is a notable experience and if done correctly can be transformative.
Steve Wilson, a second-year mechanical engineering major and finance chair of OSU’s National Society of Black Engineers, said being a part of the NSBE executive board has been inspiring, coming from the South of Chicago. What won him over was the mission statement of increasing the number of culturally responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
“The first time I saw a Black engineer or spoke with a Black engineer I was a junior or senior in high school. NSBE really provided me with those types of opportunities to do so, just to be able to see somebody that looks like me in a position that I want to be in,” Wilson said.
Once you find these groups (check the student org finder), get involved, be involved and stay involved. More importantly, do not be afraid to put yourself out there.
“I would recommend definitely getting engaged your first year. Don’t put it off until the second year; just try to get engaged your first year either volunteering or appearing at the meetings. There is always something that you can gain from that,” Wilson said.
On top of joining organizations, it is equally important to find a black faculty or staff member to build a solid relationship with. The faculty and staff work closely with the multicultural organizations on campus, so they won’t be too hard to find.
Most of the time those faculty and staff members can be found at Hale Hall, where the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is located. Under the current circumstances, Black student hangouts like Hale Hall and the Mulitcultural Center aren’t exactly bustling, but connections are more important than ever. Both offices host plenty of online resources and events.
With campus life looking a little restricted right now, you might be looking for a change of scenery. No problem, here are some local places that are Black-owned and created as safe spaces for Black people:
Our Bar and Lounge – 890 Oak St.
The lounge is a local hangout spot for anyone looking for a fun atmosphere in Olde Towne East. While there, don’t forget to take your picture in front of the famous wall that says “For the people by the people.”
Buckeye Crazy – 2365 E Dublin Granville Rd.
A sports bar known for its energetic atmosphere, happy hour specials and late-night karaoke events.
SuperChef’s Breakfast and More – 199 E Broad St.
Whenever you are looking to fix your craving for chicken and waffles check out SuperChef’s, a popular black owned breakfast/brunch restaurant. The founder and Columbus native Darnell Ferguson was a chef in the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Team U.S.A. where he was named “SuperChef,” hence the restaurant’s name. Check out his downtown and Gahanna locations, open Tuesday through Sunday.
Stadium – 101 Mill St. suite B105, Gahanna
If you cannot get enough of Ferguson’s cooking, check out Stadium. This is his new sports bar/restaurant. The menu is football-inspired, with a pre-game(cocktails), first quarter (appetizers), second quarter (salads), third quarter (wings), fourth quarter (pizza, pasta, sandwiches) and overtime (desserts).
Shrimp Lips – 1624 Parsons Ave.
A family owned business catering to all seafood lovers, open Wednesday through Sunday. Their menu includes both fish and shrimp platters, full snow crab combos, fish and chicken tacos, and catfish, along with Cajun-style sides.
Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen – 2444 Cleveland Ave.
Ena brings the tropics to Columbus. She’s best known for her jerk sauce, but also offers curry and BBQ chicken, fried plantain, cornbread, and more.
Sole Classics – 846 N High St.
If you are looking to spend your bucks at a Black owned shop, you are in luck. Just down the street from campus in the Short North is Sole Classics. The former Ohio State fullback Dionte Johnson is the owner of the retail boutique which carries brand-name shoes and athleisure wear.