Club Feature: Sister Sister AU offers a space for networking and community for Black women on campus
Co-president Keana Brooks stresses the importance of a support system for Black students
Sitting at a table in The Dav in the School of International Service building, Keana Brooks briefly catches up with a student sitting across from her. They talk about their first semester back on campus after a year and a half of remote learning and making it to senior year. They wish each other luck in the looming midterms.
This brief interaction is a glimpse into the type of relationships and support fostered in Sister Sister AU.
Founded in 2016 by former students Janaé Littlejohn and Aaliyah Lambert, Sister Sister was created to offer a space of empowerment for Black women on campus and to explore community building and networking opportunities.
“I couldn’t find the space I needed as a young Black woman on campus to be selfish with my advocacy and intentional with my experience, so I made one,” Littlejohn wrote in a message to The Eagle. “Sister Sister bridged the gap for what was long overdue — us to have a space completely and solely dedicated to us. Our peace. Our passions. Our grief. Our voices.”
Brooks, a Baltimore native and a double major in communications studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, is the current co-president of Sister Sister. She said the development of an organization created by Black women for Black women continues to remain integral to such a crucial and underrepresented group at American University.
“It’s a chance to find home on campus,” Brooks, a senior in the School of Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “Any chance that you can find someone you relate to or can gravitate to, I think that’s really important. So Sister Sister really tries to do that in every way possible.”
The organization also runs a mentorship program where upperclassmen mentor and support underclassmen. Mentees fill out a form designed to gauge complementing interests and are paired with a “big sister” who guides them through the semester and acclimation to D.C.
“We really just focus on relationship-building because you have to have a strong network and a strong relationship before you can build off into your community,” Brooks said.
In addition to networking, most of the events organized by Sister Sister are centered around community building and getting members involved in the district. In the past, they partnered with Martha’s Table, a nonprofit organization promoting education and nutritional accessibility in the district.
“We have a lot of volunteer opportunities off campus,” Brooks said. “We make sure that [all of our members] know that there are ways to get involved off campus, and we try to offer them resources to do that.”
Brooks also stressed the importance of uplifting Sister Sister members. Inspired by its founders’ #sisyouarebeautiful campaign, the organization runs a “Woman Crush Wednesday'' program published weekly on their Instagram page, highlighting Black women making a difference on campus.
In collaboration with a number of student organizations, Sister Sister is hosting a conversation with award-winning designer Ruth Carter on Oct. 20, and Jordan Alexander, an actress in HBOMax’s revival of the hit show “Gossip Girl,” on Oct. 21.
“My main goal is giving people that chance, that opportunity to meet people who are like them, in a space where they feel supported,” Brooks said.