Sister Sister holds ‘Sister Talks’ event on being Black at a predominantly white institution
Members emphasized creating safe space, supporting one another
Sister Sister held its first event of the year Oct. 11 in Mary Graydon Center as part of their new series “Sister Talks,” to discuss the experience of being a Black student at a predominantly white institution.
“Sister Sister is a club created by Black women for Black women on campus,” said Oni Chaytor, a sophomore in the School of Communication and co-president of Sister Sister. “It’s a way for Black women from all different walks of life to get together on campus and build strong connections and build community with each other.”
During the event, students shared their stories of navigating life at American University, the struggles they have encountered in the process and the hurdles they have overcome as Black women.
Chaytor said the idea of “Sister Talks” was inspired by an interest in creating a space where Black students could comfortably talk about the issues they face at predominantly white institutions. Such spaces have often been hard to find, said Chaytor, who added that she has felt hesitant to speak about her experience in classes where most students are white.
“I remember during my freshman year when I took a writing class and we had to read a book about racism, I was very hesitant to speak up about some of the things the book talked about because a lot of my white classmates … I feel like they missed the point in what the book was trying to say,” Chaytor said.
Chaytor added that a key feature of “Sister Talks” is that members can discuss subjects pertaining to them without fear of judgment.
“I feel like I’ve never been able to express how I feel about going to a PWI and being a Black woman in America because in a lot of the classes I have, I’m the only Black girl, so I feel really uncomfortable speaking about those types of things,” Chaytor said.
According to the AU academic data reference book from fall 2021, 55.4 percent of the undergraduate student population is white, while 7.7 percent are Black or African American. Chaytor said this disparity can make it hard for Black students to find people they connect with, and shows why the work of Sister Sister, particularly their mentorship program where freshmen are paired with older Black students, is so important.
“Our mentorship program, which is one of the biggest parts of our club, helped me connect to Black women in ways that I couldn’t even imagine,” Chaytor said. “I had a mentor last year and she really helped … guide me in terms of how to navigate AU as a Black woman as well as just being there for me.”
Genesis Kidd, a sophomore in SOC and outreach coordinator for Sister Sister, said she was pleased by the turnout at the event and the personal stories that were shared.
“I did not think this event would be as big as it was but I’m really happy that it turned out to be great,” Kidd said. “I loved everybody’s input and participation.”
Kidd said that Sister Sister is looking to expand the club going forward to reach more members of the Black community.
“We’re definitely going to be doing more events catered towards being Black at a PWI and building a community so people feel like they have a safe space to come talk to us,” Kidd said.
Kiki Nartey, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she attended the event to tap into a community she could relate to.
“I really enjoyed hearing everyone talk about their experiences and recognizing that we all go through the same struggles, but that we’re all here for each other and we’ll back each other up no matter what,” Nartey said.
Chaytor said she hopes to “continue the legacy” of Sister Sister by pushing forward with efforts to create spaces of safety and community for Black female students, including making “Sister Talks” a monthly event.
“I want to be able to create that safe space where people can come and talk about their grievances without being judged,” Chaytor said. “We’re also going to continue the mentorship program and make sure that more Black women are being connected to mentorship resources so that they know that they’re not alone.”