Isolation, exclusion and a lack of acknowledgment. These are the feelings DJ Jordan and Solomon Webb have, not because the college has moved online, but because they are Black students at a predominantly white college in a predominantly white community. Black students make up only six percent of the student body while white students make up about 65 percent. Jordan has looked for a place to belong at the college.
“I did go to KU first before I came here, and I know I didn’t really feel as included as I was there,” Jordan said. “Coming to Johnson County, I guess I wanted to find a place that like, I felt like I belong, and I know in college like not especially sometimes it’s easy for you to think, okay, maybe I don’t belong here, because you don’t have this sense of community here.”
Jordan and Webb have since joined the college’s Black Student Union (BSU). Every Wednesday the union meets through Zoom to discuss increasing membership, spreads information about African American history and seeks to foster a community among its members.
“Not only did we bond as a group, but we built a bond with each other individually and collectively,” Webb said. “When students hear that the term Black Student Union, they feel like it is predominantly for Black students. Mind you, it’s not just for African-Americans, it’s open to all nationalities.”
Jordan and Webb agree the college could be doing more to include Black students, including a greater emphasis on celebrating holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth, as well as teaching about Black leaders such as Malcom X. The lack of a prominent celebration of Black History Month has frustrated the BSU.
“It’s almost as if they rely on the Black Student Union to do that for them, when they should be doing it as well,” Jordan said. “It’s going to make everyone in the Black Student Union think ‘okay, it’s up to us to make everyone know about Black History Month’ when the college should do that themselves.
Year round, Jordan and Webb would like to see the college take on a more active role in educating students on African American history. The BSU has taken it upon itself to educate its members in the meantime.
“[The BSU has been] basically doing what the college isn’t doing, putting more emphasis on Black people, Black history and things like that,” Jordan said. “When we had the first meeting this semester welcoming the news students, we asked them what they wanted to learn and what they were expecting of the group, so we can help meet that goal.”
“What I recall from the last meeting was everyone wanting to learn more about the history and the unknown heroes,” Webb said. “Not the heroes that we like predominantly hear about in the education system, but heroes [that] aren’t really preached about in history lessons like Emmett Till and other historical figures that aren’t really mentioned that much in the history books.”
Jordan and Webb both hope that the BSU community will continue to grow into the rest of the year.
By Jason Yearout