Nineteen Fifty-Six Vol. 2 No. 5

This is the 2022 print edition of Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. The theme "Movin' On Up" is inspired by the Black Panther Party.

This is the 2022 print edition of Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. The theme "Movin' On Up" is inspired by the Black Panther Party.


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You do matter. The numerous achievements and talents

of Black students deserve to be recognized. As of Fall

2021, 11.16% of students on campus identified as Black or

African American. Black students are disproportionately

underrepresented in various areas on campus. Nineteen

Fifty-Six is a Black student-led magazine that amplifies

the voices within the University of Alabama’s Black

community. It also seeks to educate students from all

backgrounds on culturally important issues and topics

in an effort to produce socially-conscious, ethical and

well-rounded citizens.

























Rachel Parker, Lyric

Wisdom, Jolencia Jones,

Shamiel Moore, Leah

Jones, Ta’Kyla Bates,

Jeffrey Kelly, Ja’Quacy

Minter, Tonya Williams

Anaya McCullum, CJ

Thomas, Tonya Williams,

Lyric Wisdom

Karris Harmon, Asia

Smith, Christian Thomas,

Jordan Strawter

Danielle S. McAllister,

Farrah Sanders

Special Thanks to Toni Taite, Kim Taite, and Ruby Booker


Nineteen Fifty-Six is published by the Office of Student Media at The University of Alabama. All content and

design are produced by students in consultation with professional staff advisers. All material contained herein,

except advertising or where indicated otherwise, is copyrighted © 2022 by Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. Material

herein may not be reprinted without the expressed, written permission of Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine. Editorial

and Advertising offices for Nineteen Fifty-Six Magazine are located at 414 Campus Drive East, Tuscaloosa, AL

35487. The mailing address is P.O. Box 870170, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. Phone: (205) 348-7257.

Pictured on the cover are Jaden Johnson, Shak Mullings and Ethan Jones. Cover photography by Tyler Hogan.



Black women stand up— as they did during the

Montgomery Bus Boycott—as they did during the Black

liberation era, earth-shaking changes occur.

- Angela Davis


lasting mark has been left on me. No, not like a

stain. More like an internal imprint that stains

my character. My grandmother’s influence

can be seen through my responses to life’s various

circumstances. Discussions on my grandmother’s

porch educated me about the history of my hometown,

Montgomery, Alabama, as well as the prejudice my

grandmother endured during her youth. In 1961, the

Ku Klux Klan trespassed onto my great-grandfather’s

property. While only seven years old, my grandmother

consoled her six siblings as they huddled in the corner

of their parents’ room in Evergreen, Alabama. Through

her stories of injustice, I have developed a social

consciousness that aims to give a voice to victims who

would otherwise not get a chance to be heard.

Nineteen Fifty-Six magazine is one of the many ways that I

carry out my commitment to social justice. Through working

with and highlighting a diverse range of Black students at

the University of Alabama, I have formed lasting memories

that I will truly never forget. These past two years since the

creation of Nineteen Fifty-Six have solidified my belief that

one action can create lasting change. While serving as the

founding editor-in-chief of a magazine and also preparing for

law school is no easy feat, I would not change my experience

for the world.

It is with a bittersweet feeling that I officially write my last

letter from the editor. However, this is just the beginning of

my journey to creating lasting change in the realm of social

justice. From graduating highschool in 2019 to graduating

college in 2022 to enrolling in law school this Fall, one thing

is for certain: I will continue to find ways to advocate for the

voiceless and initiate change.

I am honored to pass on Nineteen Fifty-Six to future Black

students at the University of Alabama. I am convinced that

these students will continue to reach new heights with

Nineteen Fifty-Six.

In the past two years, Nineteen Fifty-Six released 11 magazine

issues and two special edition issues. I am pleased to present

our final magazine issue of the year entitled “Movin’ On Up.”

It has truly been a blessing to work with such talented and

dedicated students on this historical magazine. I hope this

magazine issue leaves you inspired.




Grandma’s Hands 14

Respect Black Women 16

Olvera the Explorer 18

Black Lives Still Matter 19

Miss Black Alabama USA 20

Album Review: Ry Ry World 23

Black Mental Health Matters 28

Loud and Proud 30

The Misconceptions of AAVE 35




Black Political Leaders in Alabama 40

Royal Lineage 44

The Balancing Act of Being a Student Parent 46

An Unlevel Playing Field: Black Athletes in Sports 50

Athletes in Motion 54

When Voices Are Made Silent 56

When America Catches a Cold,

The Black Man Breathes His Last Breath 60

Off The Field 65

The “Angry” Black Woman 67

What is a Black Girl’s Childhood 69







The Black Panther Party, originally named Black

Panther Party for Self-Defense, was founded in 1966

by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland,

California. The Black Panther Party’s original purpose

was to patrol African American neighborhoods to

protect residents from acts of police brutality.



Sunday Dinner, stories on

the front porch and church

on Sunday. Many of the core

memories most Black people share.

Most of those memories have one central

character, a Black grandmother. Whether

she’s Grandma, Granny, Nana, they are all

representations of the strength and resilience

of the matriarch of Black families. It’s important

to highlight what pivotal roles Black grandmothers

play in the lives of Black youth and Black families. Black

students at the University of Alabama share what pivotal

role their grandmothers have played in their lives and the impact

they have had on their families.


“My grandma is extremely beneficial.

she’s who I turn to whenever I’m in a rut or I feel as

though I need someone to talk to. She has shaped

my patience and determination into who I am today.

When I think of Grandma’s hands I think of a gentle,

kind loving hand, and cooking.”

Breniya Shrieves, Sophomore

Political Science (Pre-Law)

“Growing up I’ve always had two

grandmothers and both of them mean

the world to me. They have taught me what

it is to be a woman and how to be a woman in a

relationship. They’ve taught me about modesty,

self-respect and self-love and that’s something

that I can never say thank you enough for. They

have taught me about confidence, beauty and selflove.”

Tonya Samples, Sophomore

Hospitality Management

“My grandmother Clara M. Purse was

a wonderful lady. Sadly she is no longer

with us, she transitioned August of 2021. Me and

her were very close, I used to take her shopping

and paying bills and we enjoyed being in each

other’s company. Out of everyone in my family I

was compared to her the most. We both shared

interests such as fashion and singing. She was the

glue that brought everyone together at her home

and helped so many people in times of need that it

encouraged me to do the same. She taught me to

remain forever young. Even though she was older

in age she still had spunk and was fabulous. I will

always love her and cherish our memories together

and one day we will meet again.”

Eddie Coats, Freshman

Theater Arts

“[My grandmother’s] hands show her

life and I respect her for that. Also, I imagine a

grandmother sitting on her porch, staring at

children playing, she’s looking at her legacy.”

Keia Ervin, Sophomore

Creative Media

“My Grandmother has a huge part into

shaping me into the person I am today.

She helped raise me, placed meals on the table

(even now she’ll make me a juicy steak), and spoiled

me. She tries to push me to be a better person,

and I know that if I ever need anything she will do

all she can to help. When she’s not making Greek

dogs and burgers for the family, she’s helping me

do my laundry on the weekends. I know if I ever

need advice she is always going to be honest. And

I know that whenever I’m not doing it myself,

she’s praying for me. My grandmother shaped

me into an independent, hardworking, faithful,

disciplined, and supportive young lady. She is part

of the reason I’ve made it to where I am today,

and why I choose to keep pushing. Without her, I

honestly don’t know who I would be today.”

Zariah Orr, Sophomore

Aerospace Engineering & Physics

“My grandmother has grown into one

of my closest friends because the older I get

the more I seek her wisdom. As a child, I loved her

house because she was always cooking and giving

me whatever I wanted. My granny always told me

to believe who someone is the first time they show

me and to not make up in my own mind who I

want people to be. Grandma’s hands remind me of

laying in my grandmother’s lap in church as she

sang along with the choir.”

Deja Evan, Sophomore

Public Relations






Malcolm X once said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.

The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected

person in America is the Black woman.”

Recently, #protectBlackwomen has been in the headlines to shed light on the constant

disrespect Black women are facing. Misogynoir is the specific hatred, dislike, distrust, and

prejudice directed toward Black women.

Who do Black women need protection from? The shortest answer is the media. There’s no

secret of the limited positive representation of Black women in mass media which reflects on

the reality of Black women being constantly mistreated.

Constant studies have shown Black women being less likely to receive work promotions and

more likely to face discrimination because of their hair. Unfortunately, Black women fall into

stereotypical roles when it comes to their portrayal in movies, television, and music videos.

Although movies are a source of entertainment, it is important to notice the stereotypical

pattern Black women face in certain roles. In 1939, legendary actress Hattie McDaniel was the

first Black person to win an Oscar. However, the role she played was a mammy. A mammy is

described by Merriam-Webster as a Black woman serving as a nurse to white children especially

formerly in the southern U.S.

In 2011, Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her portrayal of Minny Jackson in The Help which

was another stereotypical mammy role. In 2013, Lupita Nyungo won an Oscar for playing an

enslaved woman in 12 Years a Slave. All of these women deserve their Oscars, but it’s important


to recognize the specific stereotypical roles that get

acknowledged in Hollywood.

“We are more visible than ever now but we are very

underrepresented. Diversity has space everywhere and we

don’t see enough of it in the media. We all have different

stories to tell and at the moment we are not seeing enough

of it. I think we have a lot of representation on-screen,

but to get even more we need more Black women off the

screen in the offices or in the director’s chair is how we

can see a more positive light and really achieve what we

want and what audiences want,” said Sydney Ogbogu, a

senior majoring in creative media.

Black sitcoms are some of the most interesting things to

look back on because they represent a time when things

were simpler, like childhood. Common Black sitcoms

include Martin, The Cosby Show, The Jeffersons, Family

Matters, A Different World, The Parkers, Moesha, The

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and One on One. However, in

the majority of these shows, there’s a misogynistic male

character or constant degrading jokes towards another

female character.

Within The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will’s character said

something misogynistic or sexual every episode when

speaking to another female character. A lot of scenes

between these male and female characters are a form of

sexual harassment that gets overlooked.

“I didn’t see enough good representation growing up. But

when I did see it, it made me so happy! I remember when

Princess and The Frog came out on Disney for the first

time, it was truly magical seeing someone that looked

like me, like a princess. The media is getting better with

this, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Breona Winn, a

junior majoring in public relations.

Are Black women worthy of praise and appreciation

outside of stereotypical reminders of a painful past? The

answer is yes, but movies and shows aren’t the only issues.

The media also controls the way women are portrayed

through music.

Hip hop is a steady genre that has captivated the minds

of young people. With hip hop created on the back of

misogyny, it’s hard for women to get the respect they

deserve. From the start of rap music videos, women

have been the center of objectification and disrespect.

Throughout the early 2000s, the objectification of

women through music videos was at a high with video

vixens. These music videos showed a glamorous life to

young girls watching.

In 2003, rapper Nelly received backlash from his infamous

“Tip Drill” video because of the degrading actions towards

women in certain scenes of the video. The lyrics and video

implied women were only good for sexual endeavors.

Although this isn’t the only song in history to objectify

women, the majority of rap songs sexualize women or call

them degrading names.

However, it’s important to notice the things young girls

consume and how this can have a damaging effect on

them as they get older.

“The media does oversexualize women at times especially

in music videos and films. I believe that this comes from

how society has constructed itself. We live in a world

where women are constantly fighting against the male

ego. In the eyes of most men, women are seen for just

pleasure. The media portrays women to only look sexy and

cater to them, and then are constantly criticized for what

they wear and how they wear it,” said Keirra Thomas, a

junior majoring in Advertising.

A study conducted by the American Journal of Public

Health from 1996-1999 on Black teenage girls who were

exposed to rap music videos showed these girls were 2.5

times as likely to have been arrested; 2 times as likely to

have had multiple sexual partners; and 1.5 times as likely

to have acquired a new sexually transmitted disease, used

drugs, or used alcohol over the 12-month follow-up period.

Although the media doesn’t define every Black woman in

America, it is important to acknowledge the weak areas

that need improvement. Black women are often overlooked

and silenced. If you’re a man, use your privilege to listen

and uplift Black women’s voices for others to hear. As a

community, instead of highlighting negative moments

let’s uplift each other to move forward.




Olvera the Explorer

Isabel de Olvera was born in

Querétaro, Mexico, in the late 1500s

Her Father was African and Mother Indian

As a free Black woman in the 1600ʻs,

she needed permision and protection to

join an expedition to New Spain

She petitioned the mayor to

provide her the documentation

she needed to be a free woman

In her appeal, at the end she wrote,

“I Demand Justice”


8 Months


Olvera was allowed to join

the expedition. She traveled

around 1400, but details of the

adventure are still unknown.




2020 was a crucial year for

social justice in the United

States. Breonna Taylor was

killed by the police in Louisville on

March 13. Not long after, the world

watched as George Floyd was killed

by the police on May 25.

Tension has been built up for years

with the multitude of Black Americans

being killed at the hands of police.

Streets were filled with protestors of

all races throughout the country and

throughout the world and social media

was flooded with #BLM hashtags

and internet performances showing


After months of displays, the

discussion and protests died down

and people slowly stopped talking

about the issues. This is a reminder

that Black lives still matter and must

be a frequent topic for the betterment

of Black Americans’ circumstances.

Black Lives Matter is not simply an

organization or trend, it is a priority

and a mission that must be reinforced

until an actual change in society is


Recent reports have shown that the

support for the Black Lives Matter

movement has slowly declined since

it’s peak in June of 2020. Nobody in

the U.S. was privy to George Floyd’s

murder, as the video showed police

officer Derek Chauvin kneel on his

neck for 8 minutes.

In 1991, Rodney King was assaulted by

police officers on camera. Like Floyd’s

murder, riots spread after King’s

attack. The fact that everyone had

video access to both incidents caused

anger within the Black community,

only with Floyd’s murder, it led to

other nations getting involved.

Protests occurred in countries such

as the United States, England, South

Korea, Italy, Sweden. “I Can’t Breathe”

signs were a global item. Videos were

posted in different languages talking

about this injustice in U.S. history.

For months, there was growing


With all the chaos surrounding the

question, “Do Black Lives Matter,”

young Black people were experiencing

a major shift in their life. UA freshman

Timira Lawson says that the summer

of 2020 was a traumatizing experience.

“I felt like it was extremely harsh and it

could have been handled differently,”

Lawson said. “Now we are more afraid

of cops than ever and it was sad to see

people injured and killed.”

As protests died down and people

stopped making posts, the summer

of 2020 became a dark memory for

most people. Soon #BLM was taken

out of celebrities’ Instagram bios

and the cities were being cleaned up.

Many people felt it was no longer their

obligation to openly show support.

UA sophomore Spencer Lott believes

that people didn’t take the protests

and issues seriously and simply wanted

to keep a clean record.

“I do believe that to an extent

people hopped onto it, kind of like a

bandwagon,” Lott said. “Most of it felt

really shallow and not genuine, and

many of the events felt very temporary

and only after tragedies these issues

are talked about.”

People slowly forgot the traumatic

experience of that summer and moved

on with their lives. But for Black

people, 2020 still lingers. The question

‘Do Black Lives Matter?’ provokes

the option that Black Lives could be

worthless, an idea that has emotionally

damaged many Black people in the U.S.

The question became more politicized

than socially relevant. With the political

system not built in Black people’s favor,

they’re forced to tolerate unnecessary

evils. Police brutality happens often

and blatant racism is extremely

prevalent in the modern day.

There are many people still fighting

for justice despite the BLM “trend” of

2020 being over. Black Lives Matter

needs more than just black square

posts, and social media dances, and

catchphrases, but systemic changes for

the benefit of all Black people.





door was opened and I could not be more grateful

A to be the one to walk through it. In November 2021,

I was officially crowned as Miss Black Alabama USA 2022.

This title grants me with even more opportunities to

serve my community and state. Within this role, I serve

as a spokesperson for my generation by researching,

preparing, and delivering public appearance presentations,

performances, and speeches pertaining to voting, human

rights, mental health, and many other topics. As a state

titleholder, I will also build on the legacy of Miss Black

Alabama USA by sharing my social initiative “Diversifying

Digital Media & Elevating Marginalized Voices.”

I aspire to prove that diversifying digital media benefits

people of all backgrounds because it provides education

on cultural topics and helps produce socially-conscious,

ethical, and well-rounded citizens. I will specifically focus

on three areas: Colleges, High Schools, and Mainstream


The Miss Black USA Organization is the first and largest

scholarship pageant for women of color. The pageant

empowers women to own their power and celebrates their

unique talents, traits and beauty. Miss Black USA defines

her own standard of beauty and celebrates the whole

woman, mind, body and spirit, all shades of brown, hair

texture and size.




Ry Ry World

With the arrival of Mariah the Scientist’s second

studio album: Ry Ry World, she immurses us

into her world, literally. This album is much

more personal and captivating than her debut album,

Master, which was presented only two years prior, with

a look and feel to go along with it. It’s evident that her

music is very personal to her because of the details she

incorporates into every song. Ry Ry World is 10 tracks

that have an overall theme of the universe, the stars, and

the atmosphere and tells a story along with its paired

visuals. The 23-year-old from Decatur, Georgia pulls

much inspiration from how and where she grew up, and

it shines through in her music. This inspiration comes

out in various ways, whether it’s references in lyrics or

other topics. This album is for anyone who is looking for

closure from a relationship or an album that tells a story.

But, most importantly the album overall gives an ethereal

feeling when listening to it.

The theme is very consistent throughout the album.

Mariah ties her feelings towards the relationship at topic

with the universe, space, and how these feelings many

times intertwine for women. The instrumentals for all the

songs, especially the key songs, create a dreamy feeling

created by pianos, strings and synths to marry the theme

with the lyrics. With 5 of the 10 songs produced by K. Rain,

it is easy to hear the collaboration and the direction they

wanted the album to go in. Many times when there are

multiple different producers on an album, it can sound

like an assortment of songs pieced together, rather than

a full story composed prior to the album being born. With

Ry Ry World, it is evident in all the elements this is a piece

of art thought out from beginning to end.


Track 1- Impalas & Air Force 1s

The opening track on the album kicks off with the

line, “Take me to your leader”, making the listener

aware that Mariah’s mind is elsewhere, possibly not on

Earth at the moment. Being the shortest track on the

album at only 1:39, it serves its purpose of introducing

the main topics of the album, the universe, love and

Atlanta. She transports us elsewhere, but still brings

her world along. She goes on to say, “Nothing I’ve seen

on the East Side. I wonder what they’ll think of Impalas

& Air Force 1s?” This is a nod to where she’s from,

East Atlanta, where the culture involves the love of

old cars, such as Chevy Impalas, and the most popular

shoes are Air Force 1s, white to be specific. Both are

mentioned frequently in other artists’ songs who are

also from the city. She ends the song with “Who’s your

favorite girl, I wish I could be her” hinting at the fact

the relationship she is referring to in this album is no


Track 2- Aura

A second single of the album, and rightfully so, starts

with a fairy-like intro and the pre-hook of this song

is, “I can be what you need, maybe more, everything”

as if she’s trying to prove to her previous lover that

they are made for each other, a central theme we’ll see

throughout the album. There is a sample here from

the Isley Brothers, “Make Me Say It Again Girl” which

shows up most prominently as the chorus,

Oh, I believe you are a rainbow,

All the heaven I need to see

You’re the promise everlasting

Where you are, I hope to be

These sample lyrics, “Heaven” and “Rainbow” fit in

perfectly with the theme of the album, and especially

the instrumental here. The lyrics tie perfectly with

the ideas of the universe, the planets, and the ethereal

feelings provoked by the album. The visual for this song

is only 1:57 minutes while the song is 3:13 minutes. In

an interview, Mariah mentioned how there wasn’t any

need for a video. In the whole song, she got her point

across in that short period of time. The visual for this

song is her running from arrows shooting from the

sky. She is wearing all red, the color of passion and love,

running through a field of deep snow. She is eventually

struck from behind by an arrow, implying that she has

been struck by Cupid. Before she can fall, colorful rays

cover the sky, this is where the correlation between “2

You” comes in, because at the beginning of that video,

it looks like you’re traveling through space in the same

sky that is in “Aura.”

Track 4- RIP

The starting lines of this song are, “If we can’t live

forever, baby it is now or never. And if nothing I guess

I’ll see you in Heaven.” Again, the mentioning of

Heaven, and the ideas of time in space are continued

through the songs. The reason this song would be

another key song, is because this is where she narrates

why the relationship ended, with the title of the song

“RIP”. In the verse of the song she mentions how she

could give everything she has and more to this person,

and it still won’t be enough to satisfy them. Mariah

says, “Well I dream to be a fool” so this way she doesn’t

know what her partner is really doing, and she is able

to overlook all the wrongs he is doing. She would

rather focus on the good, but she just can’t, and that’s

why the relationship ended.

Track 7- Maybe

This whole song is a narration of what could have

been. What she thinks could have come from the

relationship. She lists multiple things they could

have done to possibly save the relationship like

praying, being more brave, escaping together and so

many other things. It seems as if it’s an in-real-time

reflection as to how she feels now that the relationship

has ended, and hindsight has started. Based on the


lyrics, it is clear Mariah saw more in the person than he

saw in himself, and let the fame get to his head. She said,

“Liked you better for what you could have been” then

later in the verse, “And I know you know I held my end of

the deal.” With the combination of these two lines, the

other person has really disappointed her. She wanted

something real, and it was just something he could not

do for her.

Track 9- All For Me

Arguably the most personal song on the album, All For

Me narrates a feeling she has of missing this person,

specifically after a long night of partying. She goes

through the emotions of the night she first says, “these

feelings get to talking, headed out of the party, and I know

you see me calling.” Then, in the chorus she explains how

she knows most likely he is with another girl, but in the

possible chance he isn’t she wants to spend more time

with him, she wants him all for her, hence the title, “All

For Me.” She then narrates how she isn’t too far from

where he stays and she doesn’t want to spend another

night alone. Then, she compares herself to this new girl

in his life, and she can’t do half of what she is willing to

do for him. It’s a borderline desperate attempt to get him

to give in to seeing her.

Being her most personal album, Ry Ry World narrates

all the emotions of a relationship turned sour that her

audience can relate to. From feelings of sadness, to

regret, to anger, and missing the person, the album as a

whole encompasses these emotions over delicate beats to

match the emotions.







Black leather jackets, afros, and black berets were

the unofficial uniform of the Black Panther Party. “The

panthers didn’t invent the idea that Black is beautiful,”

former member Jamal Joseph said. “One of the things

that Panthers did was [prove] that urban Black is







21.6% (6.5 m)

of Black Americans reported having a

mental illness.

23% (1.2 m)

of Black Americans reported having a

serious mental illness.

Many African Americans with a serious

mental illness did not receive any form

of treatment.


Source: 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health





58.2% 50%

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The lack of access to medical and mental health

services leads to mental health disparities that

disproportionately impact Black Americans.

6.5 million or 21.6% of Black Americans reported having

a mental illness. Of the 6.5 million Black Americans, 1.2

million or 23% reported having a serious mental illness,

according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and


Dr. Abhishek Allam is a resident of the National Institute

of Mental Health and Neurosciences. Allam is also a

licensed physician at Sunshine Behavioral Health in San

Juan Capistrano, California.

“Lack of insurance and medical access leads to delayed

treatment or many going untreated with serious mental

illness in the African American community,” said Allam.

In 2018, 58.2% of African Americans ages 18-25 and 50.1% of

African Americans ages 26-49 with a serious mental illness

did not receive any form of treatment, according to the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2019, 10.1% of African Americans in comparison to 6.3%

of white Americans were uninsured, according to the

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of

Minority Health.

Chief Nursing Officer Willa Hardamon works at Old

Vineyard Behavioral Health Services in Winston-Salem,

North Carolina. Hardamon has 30 years of nursing

experience in the mental and behavioral health industry.

“African Americans are more likely to not receive treatment

for a serious mental illness,” said Hardamon. “This leads to

substance use disorders in African Americans who attempt

to self-treat with drugs and other substances.”

According to a report by the CDC, 90% of Black Americans

over the age of 12 with a substance use disorder went


Stigmas associated with mental illness cause Black

Americans to not get the mental health treatment they


“Mental health stigmas and lack of public awareness

influence many Black Americans to not seek professional

treatment,” said Hardamon. “Shame and embarrassment

also results in the denial of mental illness for some Black


According to a report in the National Library of Medicine,

63% of African Americans said depression is a sign of

personal weakness.

“Growing up in India, I saw prominent members of society

talk about mental health and greatly help break some of

the stigmas in India,” said Allam. “In the same way, I think

prominent figures in the Black community speaking out

and promoting mental health can be one way to break

current stigmas.”

Outreach coordinator Eric Henckel connects community

members to Sunshine Behavioral Health. Henckel also

promotes resources such as a guide that discusses mental

health issues affecting the Black community.


of African Americans were uninsured,

compared to

of white Americans.


Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

“By sharing this resource and others, we can help start a

conversation about how racism and discrimination affect

the mental health of African Americans,” said Henckel.

“Education and outreach can help reduce the shame and

stigma associated with mental illness and mental health

treatment in the African American community.”

Mental health professionals are taking steps to decrease

the amount of mental health disparities that impact Black


Allam said Sunshine Behavioral Health is actively working

to eliminate mental health issues that the Black community


“Sunshine Behavioral Health is spreading awareness

through well-researched guides, free nonprofit addiction

directories, community presentations and partnerships

with local organizations,” said Allam. “We also provide

scholarships and payment plans for substance abuse

treatment to ensure people of all incomes can access the

best available options with us or another program.”


Hardamon said Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services

partnered with the National Action Alliance for Suicide

Prevention to positively impact communities and change

the conversation.

“There needs to be more outreach by mental health

providers to the Black community,” said Hardamon.

“Educating the Black community about mental health

and affordable treatment options is a step in the right


90% of Black Americans over the age

of 12 with a substance use disorder

went untreated.






Within the Black community, there seems to be

a stigma around having a conversation about

sexuality and gender identity. As a community,

it is frowned upon and this ignorance is justified through

religion and the Bible. Marginalized groups such as Black

people having that intersectionality of being Black and a

part of the LGBTQ+ community is a huge challenge for


When Ose Arheghan was in the 8th grade they came out

as queer. Middle school is a pretty challenging time for

many students. Approximately 20% of students between

the ages of 12 and 18 are bullied in some way. Arheghan

didn’t know this stat but they knew that as a Black queer

non-binary teenager they would be susceptible to such

things and that the children like them would be too.

Throughout high school, Arheghan made it their goal

to be an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, actively working to

change their school’s discrimination policy

At just 17-years-old Arheghan was honored as GLSEN’s

Student Advocate of the Year in 2017. Creating safe

environments for LGBTQ+ and fighting for the rights of

the community

GLSEN is a nonprofit organization that’s goal is creating

safe learning environments for LGBTQ+ youth, specifically

K-12 students. And that’s exactly what Aheghan’s goal was

and still is today.

Now attending Ohio State University, Arheghan still

advocates for the rights and inclusiveness of minority

and marginalized students and groups on the campus.

They also work closely with Know Your IX, a nonprofit

that teaches students about their rights under the Title

IX law.

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a

federal law that states: “no person in the United States

shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation

in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to

discrimination under any education program or activity

receiving Federal financial assistance.”

There are many non-profit organizations and activists

that people don’t see advocating for the LGBTIA

community, but one person that makes sure their voice

is heard is Twiggy Pucci Garcon. Garcon goes by she/they

pronouns and is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

Garcon is the Chief Program Director of True Colors

United, an organization that strives to find solutions to

homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth.

“I’ve been doing advocacy and social justice work, and

public health work since high school. Most of that work

was centered around public health, for Black and Latinx

communities, particularly queer communities,” Garcon


Garcon has also gone on to make films about LGBTQ+

homeless and young people who have come together to

create a safe space to unapologetically be themselves.

“I feel as much as I fight the urge and desire to be more

low key…I show up unapologetically everywhere all the

time and try to raise the profile and visibility of those

specifically in the ballroom scene along with Black and

brown LGBTQ people globally,” said Garcon.

While also being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and

a person of color, Garcon has a platform by using their

creativity “as a lens by which to open the door for those

conversations to happen.”



“I think that change and growth happens with many approaches,

and I think the sort of informal, conversational approach that we

can have with our friends and family and loved ones, is something

that any of us could do. And I think that on the flip side of that, it

is still also folks’ responsibility to educate themselves and keep

up with the times and what’s going on,” Garcon said.

Conversations about the intersectionality of Black and LGBTQ+

have to continue to be had. Activists and advocates like Garcon and

Arheghan leave footprints to continue advocating and teaching

about the disparities and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community,

starting with the LGBTQ+ youth. Simply acknowledging these

things is a start to leading the cause.






African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is

not a recent concept but it has been a recent

hot topic in the media. There are already

misconceptions surrounding AAVE, but the idea that

words like “lit,” “simp,” or “periodt” are new “internet

slang” adds even more to these misconceptions. AAVE

is one of the numerous aspects of Black culture that

are misinformed or just not taught, so many people do

not know what it is, where it comes from, and what the

problem of using it (or misusing it) is.

African American Vernacular English or AAVE is a dialect

of English started in the southern states of the United

States by enslaved Africans beginning in the 17th century,

according to The Oxford Handbook of African American

Language. Scholars consider there to be multiple potential

origins of AAVE. Some consider it to be derived from the

British English of the enslaved Africans’ white owners.

Others consider it to be derived from Creole spoken by

West Africans, known to some of the enslaved Africans,

mixed with English. Regardless, they are all connected

in the American south. AAVE spread and evolved as

Black people moved across the United States throughout

history. It became a part of Black American culture and

was passed through generations.

Linguists consider AAVE to have certain grammar rules,

vocabulary, tones, and pronunciations. For example, the

use of the word ‘be’ is used differently in AAVE than in

standard English but it is not used randomly.

According to linguist and Stanford professor John

Rickford, “Many members of the public seem to have

heard, too, that Ebonics speakers use an invariant ‘be’ in

their speech (as in ‘They be goin to school every day’);

however, this ‘be’ is not simply equivalent to ‘is’ or ‘are.’

Invariant ‘be’ refers to actions that occur regularly or

habitually rather than on just one occasion.”

The history of AAVE is important in emphasizing the

legitimacy of it as a dialect, as it has been and still is

considered “slang” or “improper.” Marguerite Rigoglioso

wrote for Stanford news on Rickford’s thoughts about

the discrimation and racism that was inflicted on Rachel

Jeantel during the summer of 2013 trial of George

Zimmerman and the killing of the Black, 17 year old boy,

Trayvon Martin. Jeantel was a friend of Martin and was

on the phone with Martin before and at the time of his

death. Jeantel spoke AAVE during her testimony. Because

of this, she was misunderstood and considered unreliable

by the court and others who do not understand AAVE.

“‘African Americans on the jury – especially fluent AAVE

speakers – would have understood Jeantel, and the

presence of even one such juror could have helped the

others to understand what she was saying,” Rickford said.



Short caption.

“But the defense did a good job of making sure there

were no African American jurors in this trial,’” Rigoglioso


That is one example of how speaking AAVE has caused

prejudice in the lives of Black Americans.

The origins of AAVE and the discrimination Black

Americans have recieved for speaking it is why it is

considered problematic that non-Black people profit from

appropriating it. Non-Black singers, rappers, actors, social

media stars and more have been accused of using AAVE to

gain fame, as it makes them seem ‘cool’ or ‘funny.’ These

people are often defended by those who claim they grew

up around people who use AAVE, they are from New York,

or by simply not seeing an issue. The problem with this

is it ignores the history behind AAVE and does not give

credit to the Black Americans it originated from.

Kahlil Greene, a popular social media educator and Yale

graduate, made videos discussing the history of AAVE,

the problematic uses of it by non-Black people, and why

the Black community often “gate-keeps” it and other

aspects of Black culture.

“Black people in America, specifically, have been racialized

on the idea that we are inherently lazy, poor, uneducated,

or criminal. Not all people of color are stereotyped in this

way, and thus our use of AAVE has been stigmatized as

sloppy, unprofessional or ignorant. And that is simply

not the case for non-Black people who are seen as funny,

sensational, or cool when they use it,” Greene said.

Greene further talked about the issues that arise when

these non-Black creators profit off of Black culture like

using a ‘Blaccent,’ recreating Black creators work such

as Tik Tok dances, and creating a Black caricature but

do not credit or give back to the Black community that

originated it.

“When you inform yourself about Black American history,

and you look at gatekeeping in context, you will find that

the imitation of Black culture by non-Black people has

more often led to erasure and exploitation than inclusion

and reciprocation,” Greene said.

“In countless cases, Black innovators and creatives

are smudged out for the sake of rewarding non-Black

performers of our culture to the point that if I even point

out that one of these celebrities is using Black culture,

that I get looked at as if I’m irrational even though I am

100% right,” Greene said.

Misconceptions of AAVE and people who do not

understand the importance of it and its history will always

exist as long as there continues to be no education on

the subject. In 1996, the Oakland California school board

passed a resolution that acknowledged the use of AAVE

amongst its over half population of Black students and a

plan to utilize it to aid the students with their struggle of

learning standard English.

According to Alexander Russo for The Grade, Oakland’s

decision was supported by linguists and practices of

using children’s home dialect to help them learn standard

English which has been successful in the past. Despite

this, Oakland’s resolution was disapproved of by average

people, celebrities, and media publications. This included

Black people as well, like Jesse Jackson and Maya Angelou.

Most of the opposition was based on opinions rooted

in racism or misinformation. Oakland carried out the

resolution but did it under a different name for less media

attention. This was the last time a large-scale attempt

was made to incorporate AAVE into teaching standard

English in schools.

Education is a key factor missing in the conversation

surrounding AAVE, as it is in many other aspects of Black

culture that are undermined or misunderstood.

Schools would need to be involved in order to allow the

decades of research done by linguists on AAVE to become

common knowledge. Until then, change can start with

educating oneself on the matter and staying woke on the

history of AAVE.







The Black Panther Party established more than 60

community assistance programs including medical

services, free clothing and shoes, legal aid instruction,

and a predecessor to Head Start.

“I guarantee that the seed you plant in love, no matter

how small, will grow into a mighty tree of refuge. We all

want a future for ourselves and we must now care enough

to create, nurture and secure a future for our children.”

– Afeni Shakur


Alabama’s history can be used as an indicator of the

importance of local politics.

Many are familiar with the state’s long history with

anti-Blackness and civil rights injustices. Alabama, as a

southern, historically conserative state, has a history of

slavery, displacement of Black Americans, segragation,

and police brutality. However, Black Alabamians have

used their voices to fight against the hatred being used

against them. Many of that progress can be attributed to

the work of Black political leaders in Alabama that has

existed for over 150 years.

Benjamin Turner was the first Black American to serve

as a Representative in Alabama. Turner was sold to slave

owners in Selma, Alabama and remained enslaved there

until the city was liberated by the Union during the

American Civil War in 1865. He worked for his owner’s

business where he received payment while enslaved,

so when Selma was liberated and the business was

destroyed, he had to find new work. This is when Turner

started his work in Republican politics. The Republican

party of this time favored more liberal ideals, like social

justice for Black Americans. Turner successfully won a

seat for Alabama in the US House of Representatives 42nd

Congress. The platform he ran with focussed on voting

rights and human rights protections for all. He also

advocated for financial aid for Alabama after experiencing

loss first hand during the Civil War. However, Turner was

considered to be quite conservative.

“I have no coals of fiery reproach to heap upon them now.

Rather would I extend the olive branch of peace, and say

to them, let the past be forgotten,” Turner said, according

to the US House of Representatives archives.

Turner believed in human rights protections for

confederate southerners as well. Turner’s political career

ended in 1872 when Black voters were split between

himself, and another Black candidate named Philip Joseph.

Joseph and many others did not support his moderate

views. However, both Turner and Joseph lost the seat to

a Democratic candidate because of the divide between

Black voters.

Turner was just the beginning of Black political leaders

in Alabama. A Black man named James Rapier was born

in Florence, Alabama and served in the 43rd Congress as

a representative in the House for Alabama from 1873 to

1875. He spent his time in congress with a record of six

other Black representatives of the time advocating for

The Civil Rights Act of 1875. The goal of this bill was to

outlaw discrimination in public places. Rapier and the

Republican party were successful in passing the bill after

he and the six other Black representatives recounted

their experiences with discrimination on The House

debate floor.

“Every day my life and property are exposed, are left to

the mercy of others, and will be so long as every hotelkeeper,

railroad conductor, and steamboat captain can

refuse me with impunity,” said Rapier from the US House

of Representatives archives.

The bill had little effect as the Republican party had

to amend it many times to make it acceptable to the

Democrats. Rapier still remains an important figure in

Alabama’s political history.

In a more local context, Black politicians in Alabama have

shown the importance of mayoral elections. These Black

political leaders struggled to gain mayoral power for

years because of discrimination and anti-Blackness that

prevented them from running for office. That is why it

was not until 1979 that Alabama had its first Black mayor.

Richard Arrington Jr. became the first Black mayor of the

city of Birmingham, Alabama. Arrington is an Alabama

native, born in Livingston, Alabama, and served for 20

years as mayor from 1979 to 1999. He spent his time in office

advocating against police brutality, expanding downtown

Birmingham, improving the city’s economy and lowering

the unemployment rate, instituting affirmative action in

the workplace and more, according to F. Erik Brooks and

Robert J. Robinson for the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

After Arrington, there have now been several other Black

mayors of Birmingham, including the city’s current

mayor, Randall Woodfin.

Woodfin, a Birmingham native, has served as mayor since

2017 and became the youngest mayor of the city in over 120

years at age 36. Woodfin’s administration said its focuses

are improving the 99 neighborhoods of Birmingham,

bettering education, building up the economy and more,

according to his plan to “put people first.”

While all these Black political figures have been Black

men, Black women are vital contributors to politics in

Alabama. The practices and injustices in place that made

it difficult for Black men to gain power in this state made

it even harder for Black women. However, Black women

in Alabama have still made political impact as school

board members, city council members, activists, lawyers,

community organizers and more.

Black female political figures in Alabama include women

like Dr. Sheila Nash-Stevenson, the first Black woman

in Alabama to earn a PhD in physics at Alabama A&M

University. Nash-Stevenson serves as a member of the

Madison school board in addition to being an engineer

with NASA at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,

Alabama and many other professional achievements.

Another example of Black female leadership in Alabama

politics is Terri Sewell. She is the current representative

of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District since 2011 and

first Black woman to serve in the Alabama Congressional

delegation. Sewell’s prestigious law education and years

of political work have led her to create a distinguished

congressional career creating improvements in her

district, including Tuscaloosa county and Jefferson county.

Sewell is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus

where she has worked to reform the criminal justice

system, improve health care by preventing racial health

disparities, expanding education and more. Her work in

honoring the civil rights freedom fighters involved in

historic Alabama events like the 16th Street Baptist


Church bombing and March from Selma to Wachington

were recognized and supported by President Obama and

Michelle Obama.

The work of Black politicians has been a crucial part in the

change made in this state, but community organizations

are important to acknowledge when discussing political

impact. It is these organizations that bring together

their local community and raise funds for causes that are


An Alabama organization that is working to end racial

injustice is Project Say Something. Founded by Camille

Goldston Bennett, Project Say Something’s mission is “to

confront racial injustice and patriarchal violence through

Black history by using communication, education, and

advocacy, community empowerment to reconcile the past

with the present.”

However, Project Say Something continues to advocate

for the importance of it to be taught in schools as one of

the organization’s values.

“We believe that critical race theory should be understood

and taught in every level of public education and that our

youth should be equipped with the tools to understand

oppressive systems from an early age.” -Project Say


This is just some of the work that has been done by Black

politicians and community organizers in Alabama that

has changed the state’s history. Who knows what change

can occur if more people learn about local politics and

how they can support Black leaders.

The values behind the actions this organization takes to

protect its community include protecting Black mothers

and women, advocating for LGBTQ+ members, uplifting

all Black voices, advocating for better education and

more. Project Say Something considers Critical Race

theory as an important part of improving education.

Critical race theory or CRT is defined as “an academic

and legal framework that denotes that systemic racism is

part of American society — from education and housing

to employment and healthcare,” by The NAACP Legal

Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. CRT was prohibited

to be taught in schools in Alabama in October of 2021.

Terri Sewell

Benjamin Turner





On May 19, 2018, actress Meghan Markle wed

Prince Harry, the Prince of Wales, amid

fanfare and gossip. Markle, showcased

for Black women the possibility of a fairytale happy

ending told to them as children.

Quickly being addressed as princess from the

announcement of the engagement, gave a sense

of pride and boastfulness of royal representation.

Even though Markle’s presence within the royal

family was new for the then current time, Black

women have royal connections throughout history

as queens and rulers of nations, where they were

the norm and not the exception.

Beginning within biblical times, the Queen of

Sheba (Ethiopia) is mentioned in both the Old and

New Testament. Given different names such as the

Queen of Saba, Makeda, and Queen Bilquis in Arabic

text, she is described as wise with a harmonious

and prosperous rule during her reign in Ethiopia

and Yemen.

The Queen of Sheba’s story spans the texts of

Christian, Jewish, and Islamic, each elaborating on

her story as a generous ruler gifted in commerce

and trade. Her story when discussed in Christian

texts details her interaction with King Solomon

to test his wisdom with three riddles and the later

relationship resulting in a son, Menelik I.

Her reign also speaks about her battle against

King Axum because of his terrorizing of the

northern Ethiopian kingdom. Her victory led to

tales of her strength. Also, according to historical

records she and her son Menelik returned the Ark

of the Covenant to Axum; crediting her with the

lineage of the East African and Nubian kings being


Makeda’s reign is rooted in religious texts and

historical accounts as tales of her rule showed her

abilities and the care she showed when concerning

her people. Her protection and economic mindset

helped to sustain her country and its citizens. Who

she was included more than her relationship — a

detail shown with other Black queens through

history and the unique qualities that made them

memorable and influential.


Continuing in the vein of famous queens, Queen Nefertiti

ruled Egypt alongside her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaton

from 1353-1336 BCE. She birthed six daughters during

their marriage, with two of her daughters eventually

becoming queens of Egypt. During her reign, Egypt had a

cultural shift in religion from polytheism to monotheism,

specifically the Sun God, Aton.

Queen Nefertiti’s influence went further with her role

as High Priestess towards the Sun God, Aton, acting as

a direct line to the deity for worshippers. Also, images

depicting her body shape, clothing in the finest of linens,

and even images of her surrounding her husband’s

sarcophagus depict her in battle, conquering enemies

or driving a chariot. Such imagery spoke to a reverence

and admiration about her, showcasing a duality of her

femininity as well as her strength.

Respect towards Nefertiti was also shown with acting

as queen regnant to her husband or acting as co-ruler.

He valued and honored her opinion in political matters

concerning Egypt. Just as her opinion held importance

during her husband’s reign, it only increased after her

husband’s death in 1334 or 1336 BC.

After her husband’s demise, Nefertiti took action to regain

the favor of the Egyptian public along with ensuring the

success of her family. Nefertiti moved the capital back to

Thebes, increasing favor from the public and Egyptian

priests. Along with reinstating the Egyptian old Gods,

Nefertiti raised her children, including her daughter,

Ankhesenamun along with her stepson and future

emperor Tutankhamun in these beliefs to avoid further

strife or separation.

During her reign, Nefertiti changed her name to

Neferneferuaten and spread this to how she was depicted

in imagery as well. The famous Bust of Nefertiti, located

in Berlin’s Neues Museum, showing her with her unique

headdress-a tall, straight-edged flat top blue crown, was

the last image showing her distinctly as a woman. It is

reported she commanded that no more images be made

of her as a woman—but only as a ruler as researched in

the book, When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of

Egypt by author, Kara Cooney.

Nefertiti (Neferneferuaten) ruled strategically, knowing

what moves to make for the good of her people and country

as well as conducting herself to appease other rulers;

when to lower her eyes or make eye contact, seemingly

fitting in to stand amongst other women rulers.

To quote the statement from Cooney’s book, “More than

any other Egyptian queen, it is Nefertiti who represents

the epitome of true, successful female power.”

Being the first woman to hold such power in Egypt is

seen also with Queen Yargoje of Zamfara, a state in

northwestern Nigeria. Queen Yargoje ruled from 1310-

1350, Yargoje was the eldest daughter of the fifth king of

Zamfara, King Dakka, and despite her royal family tree,

she blazed a path of her own accomplishments.

During her 40 year reign, Yargoje was responsible for

strategic moves benefitting her state, such as moving the

kingdom capital from Dutsi to Kuyambana, reasoning

being explained by Hajara Sadiq, formerly of the History

Bureau of Gusau, “There was also the foresight of getting

a greener environment with fertile land and fertile soil.

The new city was located at the confluence of two rivers.”

Along with this move, Yargoje also became the head of

the Bori cult, a pre-Islamic way of worship. Holding both

titles of such importance was attributed to her courage

along with tales of her possible connection to earlier kings

who formed Hausaland (collection of states formed by the

Hausa people in northern Nigeria), claiming women must

have ruled during that time.

Nevertheless, Queen Yargoje made influential strides

during her reign throughout history making firsts with

the appointment of all female chiefs, a move never seen in

the kingdom. Along with strides in gender representation,

there were also technological advancements.

As further explained by Sadiq, “She also encouraged

science and technology. Archaeological excavations

revealed a highly organized society with relative

advancement in technology. In fact, the Yargoje lamp

which she used for council meetings is a beautiful piece

of indigenous technology.” The ruins of her castle are still

visible in Kuyambana village, reflecting her efforts and

imprint upon her state of Zamfara.

Each of these African queens left an impression that

surpasses their individual reigns and remains a part of

history. Their stories are reflections of who they were as

individuals and to their countries, showcasing each of

their unique strengths.







While in college, many students have found

that to survive, one must become a semiprofessional

juggler who can skillfully keep

their education, extra-curriculars, friends, fun and

mental wellbeing aloft at the same time.

However, few manage to do so without dropping the ball

on occasion and for students who aren’t just managing

their lives but the lives of children, this juggling act

becomes even more complex.

According to the United States Government Accountability

Office’s 2019 Higher Education report, more than one in

five undergraduate students are raising children, and

about half of student parents left school without a degree.

Yet, the journey isn’t easy for those student parents who

continue to pursue higher education. Student parents

become master jugglers: juggling academics, daycare

schedules, doctor’s appointments and much more.

Kenneshia Dallas, a freshman majoring in hospitality

management, said parenthood has taught her many

lessons about life, like how it’s okay to ask for help.

“You can’t do everything; you can’t be superwoman, and

that’s okay,” Dallas said.

Dallas began college at the University of Alabama as a

first-generation student in 2015. Yet she was unsure what

she wanted to do, so she joined the military, but a week

before she finished, Dallas found out she was pregnant.

She had her baby in 2018, and from there, she focused on

working and figuring out what options she had for her


It wasn’t until the pandemic began in 2020 that she

decided to pursue her education again. After talking

to a UA advisor, Dallas began taking classes at Shelton

State Community College to increase her GPA; then, she

transferred back to The University of Alabama.

The pandemic was a catalyst for many. While Dallas

decided to start back at that time, Christian Thomas, a

junior majoring in news media, had just had her first baby

and decided that it would be best if she didn’t participate

in the Spring semester.


She said she decided not to do the semester because it

was a transitional period for her as a new mother and as

the pandemic swooped in, the semester and following

months became a transition for everyone.

However, when classes began in person again, “it was still

a big change,” and she realized that she preferred online

classes because it allowed for more flexibility with her

schedule than in-person classes offer, whether that’s with

a commute or course schedules.

A need for flexibility with schedules, work and assignments

is an issue many students have, but for students with

children, there’s even more of a need for flexibility and


“So with also being a parent, I have restless nights, I’m

up late, I don’t get time to do stuff like homework on my

own if I’m at the house, I have to do stuff outside of the

house,” Thomas said. “I feel like there isn’t a way for us

to balance out as mothers; homework assignments, class

times, and also because the child needs your attention

more than anything, especially the older they get. They

want to create a bond with their parent. So it’s been kind

of hard.”

Steven Hood, the University of Alabama’s interim vicepresident

of student life, said as a former student parent

himself during graduate school, balancing the roles

of parent and student, and sometimes even other roles

on top of those, can be difficult. It’s important to give

yourself grace as you navigate that time.

Thomas said the only way she can make it is through

prayer, patience and therapy.

“Even if it was like once a week, I have therapy because

it’s kind of hard finding your own voice sometimes and

figuring out how to balance,” Thomas said.

She said that along with prayer, patience, and therapy,

having a good support system is also important when

finding balance.

“For me being a native of Tuscaloosa, my support system

is all around. I have family and friends that I’ve grown

up with that are around that can help me with my child,

but a lot of other moms don’t have that,” she said. “So I

feel like, for me, that’s been a really good privilege, but I

know if I had gone somewhere else and had to do all this,

it wouldn’t be a balance; it would be extremely hard.”

Hood said the best piece of advice he has for student

parents is to build and rely on a support system, whether

that’s family, a friend group, classmates, anyone who can

encourage you to make progress.

However, a strong support system doesn’t have to be

just family and friends. Many universities offer different

programs and opportunities to help student parents

achieve their goals.

According to UA’s Office for Academic Affairs, the

University’s resources for parenting students include

designated lactation rooms, a parent

resource library in the Child

Development Resource Center,

a parenting assistance line and

graduate school parent support,

an organization whose goal is to

provide support to students

while also connecting them

to the University and local

community resources.

The Child Development

Research Center also has

the Children’s Program,

a childcare service that

serves 114 children from

two months old to five

years old.

Though these

resources are

listed on various

UA sites, Dallas

and Thomas

said they were

both aware of

the Children’s

Program; the other

resources offered

to student parents

weren’t something

they were aware of.



And though these resources might be at the

University, with a lack of visibility, it has left

Thomas feeling as if students like her are not


“It feels like they accommodate the students

who are just college students. They don’t

see parents, pregnant women, even elderly

people that go to UA, that aren’t in grad

school,” Thomas said.

Jeremy Henderson, the director of student

care and wellbeing, said there are resources

for all students that student parents might

want to use, like the UA Counseling Center.

There are also other resources for student

parents like the parent assistant line.

Still, the University doesn’t directly offer a

number of those resources so that might be

why they aren’t visible to everyone.

However, Henderson said though some

resources can be helpful, “there may be a

number of unmet needs for” student parents,

and he would love to learn more about them.

While programs themselves are extremely

important, it’s also important to have faculty

and staff who are understanding.

To help encourage that understanding, Hood

said it’s important to communicate quickly

and clearly with professors and advisors

when you’re struggling.

Thomas said she’d had professors who have

been helpful and worked with her; however,

some weren’t as accommodating.

Nowadays, in recent terms, I still have some

professors who are understanding,” Thomas

said. “But I still maybe have like one professor

per semester that’s kind of like, ‘well, I still

have this policy here,’ not really caring

thinking their class is more important than

my mental wellbeing and the fact that I have

other needs outside of what they need.”

Dallas said she hasn’t felt any support from

her professors, but she has felt support from

her employer, Darrien Simmons, the UA

student center’s director, who helped her

when she was in crisis.

Not only is it important that student parents

feel supported, there’s also a certain level of

isolation that can creep in.

Dallas said she was walking around campus

thinking she was the only student parent

because of a lack of community.

“I don’t feel like women or even fathers on

campus have a support system where they

can go talk about their problems, look for

people who can help them,” Thomas said. “I

feel like it’s just nothing here on campus to


Hood said in Student Life, they want to

make sure that all students feel welcome and

have the resources and support they need

to succeed and thrive, including student


While trying to succeed and find community,

Thomas advised student parents not to be

afraid to speak up about being a parent.

“I was ashamed at first, when I was only a few

months pregnant, walking around campus

until I couldn’t hide anymore. I felt like there

were moments where my self-esteem was

really bad,” she said. “Find those friends, ask

them to find support for us, tell them to tell

their friends and other organizations, ‘hey,

we need to do something for moms, they’re

struggling, we need to do something for

dads on campus that are single fathers that

they’re struggling, they need help’.”

For student parents who are interested

in creating support for other student

parents, Henderson said student care and

wellbeing would love to serve as an advocate

for students “who have identified gaps in

resources and problem-solve with students

to create solutions to address those gaps.”

He said he invites any student to contact him

directly at Jeremy.henderson@ua.edu.








Many young Black athletes

dream of playing in either

the NBA, the NFL, the

WNBA, or some other professional

league. To have your name on the

back of a jersey and hear hundreds of

thousands of fans cheer your name is

something only few get to experience.

That experience is not the same for

everyone and leagues across the board

are consistently failing Black athletes.

The athletic ability and success of

Black athletes are well documented.

From the Williams sisters to Simone

Biles, Black athletes have gone above

and beyond the standard set by the

generation before them. Surprisingly,

many athletes’ started their journey at

the playground.

“In most of the schools I attended

throughout my childhood, my

classmates tended to be a healthy

mix of all races — but at every stop, I

found that Black students consistently

dominated the playground,” Reagan

Griffin Jr, writer for The Guardian, said.

Is this trend because of genetics?

Are Black kids and people just simply

athletically superior to their white


Stereotypes such as these eventually

crept its way into the higher levels of

athletics. Sportswriters, commentators,

and analysts gawk at how Black athletes

have an inherently higher level of

athletic ability.

To spectators, these stereotypes are

supported by the surplus of Black

athletes in major American sports

leagues. In March 2021, Black athletes

made up around 41% of the rosters in

the five major American sports leagues.

Black athletes reach the top of their

respective sports, so genetics must be

the reason why.

But that’s just simply not the case.

According to a 2011 study by Oregon

State University zoologist Josef Uyeda,

rapid changes in a population don’t

continue, stay around or spread through

a certain species.

In other words, just because humans

are faster and stronger now doesn’t

mean they will be 200, 2,000 or even

1,000,000 years from now.

“Rapid evolution is clearly a reality over

fairly short time periods, sometimes

just a few generations,” Uyeda said.

“But those rapid changes do not always

persist and may be confined to small

populations. For reasons that are not

completely clear, the data shows the

long-term dynamics of evolution to be

quite slow.”

It’s only been over 400 years since Black

people were taken from their homes and

sold into slavery in the Americas during

the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Based on the study, that’s

not enough time for Black people to become genetically

and athletically superior to their white counterparts.

In fact, this evolution may not even become reality.

The myth around Black athletic superiority exists because

for many young Black kids, sports are the only way to

achieve success.

The presence of Black people in major American sports

is vast. However, when one looks at the demographics of

sports like tennis, gymnastics, soccer, golf, baseball and

other sports, the Black population begins to dwindle.

So much to the point that it’s clearly evident that Black

people can only dominate the sports they have access to.

Take soccer for an example. The U.S. has been successful in

the international arena, winning World Cups and Olympic

medals. But, it cannot — nor should it — be overlooked

that the rosters of these winning teams are predominantly


Soccer has catapulted several stars from slums and

impoverished neighborhoods into stardom, but that isn’t

the case in the U.S.

“The system is not working for the underserved

community,” Doug Andreassen, former chairman for the

U.S. Soccer Diversity Task Force, said. “It’s working for the

white kids.”

America is only 31 years into its soccer boom, but little has

changed in providing equitable access to the sport.

A 2013 University of Chicago study examined the effects of

the pay-to-play system on American soccer. Roger Bennett

and Greg Kaplan compared the background of every U.S.

national men’s team member from 1993 to 2013 to NBA allstars

and NFL pro bowlers.

The results of this study may be unsurprising to few.

The players came from communities that had higher

incomes, education and employment rankings, and were

whiter than the U.S. average. Basketball and football

players were from places that ranked lower than average

on the same demographics.

Perception is key to the equity gap in soccer. Former

American soccer player Briana Scurry said the sport

is viewed as a “white, Suburban sport.” In fact, Scurry

didn’t even know about soccer until her family moved to a

suburban community.

It’s safe to say little has been done to change that


Expensive equipment and fees coupled with limited access

and exposure forces Black athletes to play football and

basketball. That leads to a high Black population in those

sports and low Black populations in the others.

From the moment people step foot into the U.S., they

are told about the “American Dream —” the concept that

anyone from any background can achieve success in this

country. However, it’s no secret that Black people in the

U.S. have limited chances to achieve the “American Dream.”

From microaggressions, financial inequalities, pop culture

and the education system, Black people are often forced to

limit their aspirations.

Due to centuries of injustice towards African-American

communities, Black kids grow up believing their options

are limited. Their opportunities seem significantly smaller

than their white counterparts.

It’s ok to dream about playing in the NFL, the NBA or any

other professional sport. White kids dream about that,

too. What’s not ok is how that dream is used — through

systemic inequalities — to force Black kids into a corner.

Black kids, then, become desperate to find a way to the top

and for most, it’s the sport they fell in love with so long


What’s a choice for white kids is sometimes the only

option for Black kids.

“Whites, being the dominant group in the society, have

access to all means toward achieving desirable valuables

defined by the society,” Dr. Harry Edwards wrote. “Black

[people], on the other hand, are channeled into one or two

endeavors open to them — sports, and to a lesser degree

— entertainment.”

Black athletes aren’t inherently athletically superior.

There are just little options for Black kids and that needs

to change.

Since 2008, the numbers have tightened, but the gap is

still there.













The average age of a Black Panther member was quite

young, around 20 years old.

“Black Power is giving power to people who have not had

power to determine their destiny.” –Huey P. Newton






It’s no secret that certain stories, voices and groups

have been silenced throughout history. Books have

been banned, stories have been pulled and voices

have been hushed for the comfort of one group.

When the U.S. was first founded, the Founding Fathers

drafted the Bill of Rights, detailing every right

Americans would have while they lived in the States.

One of those rights was the freedom of speech. Every

American would have the right to freely express any

emotion they had through songs, books, poems, and

other forms of art.

Just so long as those thoughts, ideas and feelings didn’t

offend anyone.

America is a country built on the idea of freedom in

every aspect of life. But there have been times where

that freedom is not experienced by every group. When

Black people were removed from their homes and

brought to the Americas, they also brought plenty of

stories, songs, and voices with them.

But by the time those people reached the Americas,

those stories were gone.

Black people were forced to assimilate into American


Of course, the voices of Black people never completely

went silenced. As slavery and oppression wore on in

America, the cries for freedom got louder.

In August 1831, Virginia pastor Nat Turner led a bloody

revolt in Southampton County, Virginia that lasted

around 24 hours. The revolt killed 55 white people and

led to the execution of 55 enslaved people. However, this

rebellion did more than just violence.

It led to sweeping reform across Virginia and the United

States. Lawmakers wanted to prevent enslaved people

from being able to assemble and become educated.

The very freedoms the Bill of Rights promised every

American were stripped away from Black people.

At the time of this revolt, only 10% of enslaved people

in the South were literate. But this was still too high

of a rate for slave owners. Literacy gave Black people

power. With power came knowledge. With knowledge

came rebellions.

“An educated enslaved person was a dangerous person

[to slave owners],” said Clarence Lusane, a professor at

Howard University.

In April 1831, Virginia lawmakers passed a law that

forbade any gatherings to teach freed African

Americans how to read or write. In 1833, lawmakers

in Alabama stated that any person that tried to teach

a free or enslaved Black person would be fined no less

than $250.

If this law was passed in 2022, the fine would be no less

than $8,367.

It became increasingly clear that the fear of rebellion

and abolitionism fueled these laws. White people could

control illiterate Black people. They could dictate what

Black people learned, what they viewed as right or


wrong, what they actually knew about the world around


“Anti-literacy laws were written in response to the rise of

abolitionism in the north,” author Patrick Breen said.

Black people kept learning how to read and write despite

the consequences they would face. Some slave owners

encouraged this as well. The more educated a Black

person was, the more sophisticated jobs they received.

The laws and codes put in place were just a bandage on

a gaping wound. Nothing could stop enslaved and free

African Americans from becoming literate. Lawmakers in

the South could no longer constrict Black people’s view

on the world.

“Literacy promotes thought and raises consciousness,”

Sarah Roth, professor and creator of The Nat Turner

Project, said. “It helps you to get outside of your own

cultural constraints and think about things from a totally

different angle.”

Literacy became one of the greatest tools in ending

slavery in America. However, it didn’t end racially charged

censorship in America.

With more and more Black people seeking the highest

levels of education and creativity, censorship efforts also


The rise of the civil rights movement spurred many Black

leaders, writers and teachers to the forefront of change.

Black stories and voices were, once again, an important

talking point in American politics.

Malcolm X was one of the leading voices. His opinions

on non-peaceful protesting, Black nationalism and Black

pride dominated much of the Civil Rights movement. His

words led to him being followed, attacked and eventually


Just like they tried to do during his life, white people

tried to censor Malcolm’s words posthumously.

Malcolm, along with writer Alex Haley, wrote The

Autobiography of Malcolm X. The book detailed Malcolm’s

life, death, political views and the pivotal trip to Mecca. It

was an important piece of Black history and media.

That didn’t stop people from trying to limit the novel’s


In 2014, teachers at Public School 201 in Flushing, New

York told fourth grade students that Malcolm was a “bad”

and “violent” activist. The teachers also forbade the

students from writing about Malcolm.

About 43% of the 477 students at the school in 2014 were


Parents were upset about the matter, stating that the

teachers were imposing their personal opinions on the

students. The department of education in Flushing

responded to the parents’ concerns.

“Malcolm X is a historical figure and a hero to many

New Yorkers that we believe should be celebrated in our

schools,” agency spokesman Devon Puglia said.

Erasing pieces of Black history isn’t a new trend, but in

2021, it found a new target: critical race theory.

The term “critical race theory” was created more than 40

years ago by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw


and Richard Delgado to explore the intersectionality

of race and law in America. It was designed to examine

American liberal approaches to racial justice.

However, CRT rose to mainstream notoriety when

American conservatives began the fight against teaching


Schools stopped teaching certain aspects of Black history.

Chapters about slavery and the civil rights movement were

removed from textbooks. Conservative organizations

criticized the validity of critical race theory.

“When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is

destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which

our constitutional republic is based,” the Heritage

Foundation claimed.

Arguably the biggest issue that has come out of banning

critical race theory is knowing where the line is. That line

being free speech. Where does limiting the teaching of

CRT end and limiting free speech begin?

Or is limiting CRT also limiting free speech?

schools of thought like psychology and research in racist

practices. The crusade to limit CRT has now — whether

intentionally or not — become a crusade of limiting

diverse academia.

“Administrators, among the most risk-averse people in

the known universe, will err on the side of canceling

programs and courses,” Kruse said. “Only the brave and

the foolish will teach ethnic studies in Ohio in the future.”

Despite being almost 200 years apart, the goals of

lawmakers in 1831 and 2022 remain the same: limit

different views of culture and the world. When one takes

a critical lens of the actions of these lawmakers, one thing

becomes clear.

These laws are designed to make white people feel

comfortable and for Black people to have no voice.

Censorship — no matter what form it takes — chooses

what stories are more important. It chooses what voices


It chooses what race matters.

Timothy Messler-Kruse is a professor of ethnic studies at

Bowling Green University in Ohio. The state legislature

is close to passing House Bill 327. The bill defines several

ideas that shouldn’t be taught in any public school or


Most of the concepts in the bill — like teaching that one

race is superior or inferior to others — are ideas Kruse

teaches against. But, as the bill reads on, the ideas become

increasingly more vague.

The vagueness of the bill reaches over into other









heard a saying the other day that when America

catches a cold, the Black man catches the flu and I have

never been the same since. After hearing this saying, I

began to dwell on how I got here and the amount of work

that I would put in; trying to run away from that flu, not

knowing that I was running myself into my own casket. I

know you’re probably thinking, “damn is this nigga about

to talk about his near death experience?” Well, don’t

worry, I’m not. But, I will talk about how I was so busy

running from what I had assumed was the flu, the fear of

not succeeding, that I could not see what the real sickness

was. The risks I felt obligated to take in order to succeed

in a society that does everything in its power to stop me.

For most Black men, they experience this “flu-like”

phenomenon in the everyday big boy workforce but for

me, my “workforce” was competitive speech and debate.

This is part of the story where you can laugh if you’d

like because things are about to get really dark from

this point on...no pun intended. Yah know I don’t think

people get it at all, the pressure that comes with being

a Black competitor in speech and debate. The amount of

work it takes to drop your ebonics. The amount of work

that it takes just to walk up in front of a room filled

with mostly white competitors. To pour your heart out

to a panel of mostly white judges and hope to God that

their support is not pseudo and that they are there for

you. That they want to hear your story and not the story

that institutionalized racism has created for them. But

the hard work doesn’t stop there and shit, if i’m being

honest, I don’t quite know where it begins.

I remember the first day I held a balck book in my hand.

The color of its skin reminded me of the weight that the

stories inside of it would carry. A weight heavy enough to

break the stigma; to demolish every building in my path.

My stories carry oppression and pain and power and the

ammunition to shoot bullets through the glass ceilings

that were made to incase me and place me on display to

be the “good Black” the “proper Black” the Black who’s

“not like the rest of them.” But sometimes I feel as if

forensics isn’t the only thing to blame for my assumed

“assimilation.” I received so much backlash for attending

a predominantly white institution and competing on

a predominantly white forensics team Even before

forensics, I wasn’t like the “rest of them.” The other

Black boys wore football cleats, I wore dress shoes. They

spoke like a “nigga” where as I spoke “white” as my peers

would say. I always felt white and I hated that feeling. It

removed so many of my experiences that Black boys are

supposed to experience. There’s a picture of me from my

first speech and debate tournament that always makes me

feel something. I was wearing a purple dress shirt with

a Black suit that was composed of two different Blacks.

What the hell was I thinking? Yes, you can laugh here.

Anyways, when I examine this picture, I regret not being

able to travel back in time to notify younger me about the

amount of work that it will take for a heavyset Black boy


to craft himself into a national champion in this event. To

tell him that everything he will endure from that point on

until now, will be worth the endurance.

I was supported by my community but I never felt as if I

were connected to its roots. I was supported by my family

but I never felt as if we shared the same blood. It took so

much work, participating in this event. I had to combat

an identity crisis while taking on other people’s identities

every weekend. For those of you that dont know about

interpretation events, it’s all about character pops and

dramatic page turns. My classmates would call me white.

My teammates were white. My friends were white. My

partners were white. My community was white. Speech

& Debate, when I started winning, allowed me to evade

discrimination and become naive to the very same stories

that I would spread in speech rounds. Police officers knew

who I was so I never fit the “description.” My teachers

would follow my speech success so I was always presumed

to be a “good” kid. When I would put on my speech suit

and rack in speaker points, I lived a cookie cutter life but

when the super suit came off, I was poor, Black, obeese

and queer. It took work to survive the identity crisis that

both the speech community and the Black community

had put me through. Living in a society that makes you

feel as if you are a stain on an all white t-shirt. Where

no bleach products such as, prison systems, glass ceilings

and police brutality can get rid of you made me feel like

being a successful Black man, granted me white privilege.

For me, it was never a glass ceiling, there was never just

glass above me. Glass surrounded me, It trapped me. It

made me feel like an artifact on display, an exhibit in a

museum where my body didn’t matter, only my voice,

because my Black body was never deemed worthy in an

event such as speech, it was only a case containing my

“proper” voice that made me competitive. So here I am,

a beautiful sculpture that is supposed to be happy to be

in one of the most competitive well known art museums,

but I still feel as if society is only fascinated by my voice.

Learning to love your body and the skin that you are in

takes work. It takes overworking yourself to turn the

pages in a Black book that carry your insecurities. It takes

work to pick up the pieces of you that you tossed to the

floor to make room for everything that society takes away

from you.

So I work effortlessly sacrificing sleep and my mental

health and humanity hoping to be heard before seen and

listened to before corrected by society, or supremacy or a

ballot. To be Black and in speech is to be like John Henry,

yes the one from disney. It is to drill every ounce of hood

out of you because presentation is everything.

So I work effortlessly sacrificing sleep and my mental

health and my humanity hoping to be deemed acceptable

into a presumed safe space. When I tell you all that burnout

is real, will you actually believe me? Will you hear me

when I say that I am referring to my mental health, or will

you be like most judges and assume that the only thing

I talk about is my skin? To be Black and a competitive

speaker is to be an artifact, a rarity and in some minds,

white. I worked hard because at a young age I learned

that being Black meant carrying the assumptions of my

people around with me wherever I went.

Whether it be the classroom or the competition,

working hard is never a choice for me, it is a survival

tactic resulting from living in a world that wanted me

uneducated, voiceless, and dead. A world where you

are your generation’s John Henry. Except this time, you

aren’t dying from overusing a tool, you’re dying from

being that overused tool. Except this time, the white

man isn’t peer pressuring you into making yourself out

to be an overused tool. It is the man that you see in the

mirror, that is making you overuse yourself. Day after day

after day, sitting there, on display, inside of a glass case

watching success surround you but never being able to

break through the class to touch it. Most sculptures are

crafted out of marble, but you are different. You are as

black as charcoal and crafted out of obsidian. So sit there,

in a now cold room and bathe in all of your Black beauty,

breathe in and remember, When america catches a cold,

the Black man breathes his last brea-.





The Strained Relationship between Mental Health

and the Pursuit of Higher Education

As students prepare to enter into the system

of higher education, they are faced with

unprecedented issues. A looming pandemic with

new variants, cultural shifts, civil unrest, and more are

looming over their heads as they navigate new chapters

of life. It’s been generally understood that pursuing a

college degree is no small feat. One’s mental health will

be tested as it’s never been tested before. But it’s time to

get real about the mental health crisis that researchers

have warned us about. We’re in uncharted territory, with

little visible plans.

According to The Healthy Minds Study, 40% of American

college students experienced at least one major depressive

episode that year. 80% of college students reported that

the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their

mental health in a survey performed by Active Minds.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone in doors and in

a state of concern. Students were asked to go home and

participate in distance learning.

This resulted in self-care routines taking a devastating

hit. According to Active Minds, 76% of students have

trouble maintaining a routine, 73% struggle to get

adequate physical activity and 63% find it challenging to

connect with others. Without adequate exercise or a sense

of community, what can we expect of college students?

The boom of social media usage allowed students to

express just how overwhelmed they are. It was our only

means to participate in a community for some time. Social

media also was the backbone for many social movements

experienced in our time.

The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor placed

the discussion around the value of Black life at the

forefront. Not only are Black students having to navigate a

looming pandemic with impending assignments; but, now

they are also tasked with having difficult conversations

about institutionalized racism inside and outside of the


Mental health is not a new concern among college

students; but, we are entering an age of transparency. In

2010, the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors

reported 44% of their clients having severe psychological

problems. In 2000, they reported 16%. These numbers

may appear daunting but imagine how many students

didn’t feel safe enough to report their concerns in 2000.

Imagine how rigid the stigma around mental health was.

Students of color weren’t even able to recognize the

intersection of mental health and systemic racism in

the way that we can now. Intersections were not even

recognized until the mid-2000s, let alone researched.

We’re able to have these conversations about the running

list of issues that affect our mental wellbeing but we

always end up asking the same question. What now?

The answer is complex and requires effort from every

community, generation, and governing body. However,

this ultimately boils down to transparency. We have to

make mental health a regular topic of conversation.

No one silences the person who screams when they’ve

sustained a bodily injury. So, why are we silencing people

who recognize that they’re struggling mentally?


Throw out strength-based narratives such as “the strong

Black woman” and “emotionless men.” Black women are

strong but they are also soft, caring, and whatever they

decide to be. They deserve to be heard in every way.

Men, there is no strength in denying your emotions.

Transparency isn’t weakness but a faith-based act of

courage. It is okay to not be okay.

This also means playing an active role in the lives of

people you care about. Be an active friend, family member,

partner, etc. If you’ve noticed your classmate feeling

sluggish, invite them to come to the Student Recreation

Center with you. Ask your friend if they want to go get

lunch somewhere after class. Let someone do the same

for you.

This can clearly translate into academic practices. Office

hours with professors aren’t only reserved for test review.

Approach them if you need help handling the semester.

Many are open and willing to work with students.

Institutions, be more active and accountable in the role you

play in this issue. We can’t give out t-shirts and stress balls

in student centers while trying to force an unworkable

course load with little to no resources on many students

across the country. Understand that accessible education

and healthy wellbeing practices means placing the student

before the profits. Counseling centers need more funding

and overall backing. We have to treat them as necessary

landmarks on a student’s journey to education. This longstanding

concern will always seem like an unconquerable

mountain, if institutions insist on sitting at the top while

peering down at the rest of us.

The relationship between good mental health and success

in higher education has always been a contentious one.

Transparency is not just a want but an absolute need if we

are ever going to see true progress.




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Visit sheltonstate.edu to apply and register!

It is the policy of the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees and Shelton State Community College, a

postsecondary institution under its control, that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion,

marital status, disability, gender, age, or any other protected class as defined by federal and state law, be excluded

from participation, denied benefits, or subjected to discrimination under any program, activity, or employment.




Alajajuan Sparks, Jr.

Standing at a towering 6’5” Alajajuan Sparks

Jr. is very accustomed to having a natural

presence. Don’t let this stature fool you,

this sophomore offensive lineman for the

Alabama Crimson Tide Football team enjoys

having fun and being around friends.

“I guess my friends do somewhat regard me

as a ‘life of the party’ type. I love to laugh

and things like that,” says Alajajuan.

He collects a decent bit of his pieces from

local vintage stores and leans strongly

toward the Nike brand, stating that

the majority of his shoes are Nike

and Jordan.

From his very relaxed and friendly

demeanor to his limited-edition

kicks, Alajajuan finds comfort in

being a very authentic version of


He also recalled his love for music with R&B

being one of his most listened to genres.

Sparks even sang tenor in the choir when he

was younger.

Sparks regards his hobbies as secondary.

If it’s not related to school or football,

it’ll have to wait until the weekend. These

hobbies include playing 2K, Madden, and

Grand Theft Auto franchise games. Sparks is

excited with the upcoming NCAA franchise

and the possibility of adding a virtual

version of himself on his team.

“It’d be cool but we’ll see if that comes

out while I’m still in school,” he said while

looking down at his beige Nike sneakers

with African-inspired print detailing. A very

avid shoe collector, Sparks is proud of his

closet which features streetwear staples.


Kolbi Coleman

Kolbi Coleman, a freshman forward on

Alabama’s Women’s Soccer Team, is far more

than just a fierce competitor. Balancing life

can be a bit difficult, she admits. It’s no small

feat but this Chemical Engineering major

has huge goals.

“It can be a struggle to balance. It’s not a lot

of homework but it is a lot of studying. Our

tests are brutal,” Coleman said.

When asked about her passions she

mentioned her hair and art. She picked up

doing her own hair over quarantine and

quickly became skillful.

“I was stuck in the house,” Coleman said

while combing through her long burgundy

braids with her fingers. “This hair needed to

get done so I’m like ‘Why not’.”

Since coming to Alabama, Kolbi has realized

her passion for diversity and representation.

Coleman is a founder of Project ID, an

organization designed for student-athletes

of color at The University of Alabama to

create community, express their thoughts,

and break campus barriers. Not to be

mistaken with the Student-Athlete Advisory

Committee, Project ID aims to provide a

space where student-athletes of color can

express their feelings while existing at

several potential intersections of identity.

Coleman speaks of the chance to address the

barrier between non-athletic students and


“It’s also going to be a platform for us to

show what the student-athlete body really

looks like and just give us a chance to get out

into our communities... even to network,”

Coleman said.

Kolbi has a lot of aspirations for the budding

organization and even more inspiration for

her expanding art portfolio. But one thing is

for certain, she’s confident and determined.



Stereotypes permeate our society through

media depictions and social interactions.

Popular stereotypes are often based on

race, gender, or class.



Experiencing both a combination of race and

gender, Black women are faced with stereotypes

of being mean, aggressive, or overly assertive. A

perception that created the “Angry Black Woman,” a

label that stereotypes Black women and manipulates

characteristics about them into a negative light.

In a 2019 NPR interview, Dr. Brittney Cooper

discussed utilizing the power of anger in her

book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her

Superpower. Cooper, an Associate Professor of

Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University,

gives reasoning to what this label for Black women

means in broader, societal terms.

“Whenever someone weaponizes anger against

Black women, it is designed to silence them. It is

designed to discredit them and to say that they are

overreacting, that they are being hypersensitive,

that their reaction is outsized,” said Cooper.

Black women’s reactions not being taken seriously or

seen as exaggerations are another way of silencing

them and relegating them to being background

characters in their own narratives. Instead of being

acknowledged as an individual along with their

experiences being seen as valid, Black women are

placed back into their proverbial box with the

stereotypes of overreacting, being too loud, or

taking things too personal.

The emotional response of anger is normal and

should be seen as such when an individual has been

disrespected, but this courtesy is not granted to

Black women. Black women aren’t allowed to be seen

as complex individuals.

“Black women are generally framed as either angry,

strong or both. While anger and rage are a reasonable

response to oppression, the danger is that it

caricatures and dehumanizes Black women, making

them instant memes while refusing to engage them


as emotionally intelligent and vulnerable,” said Dr. Robin


Boylorn, a professor in the Communication Studies

department at The University of Alabama, connects her

comment with the notion that if a woman is not smiling

or in some state of happiness, she is perceived to be angry.

For Black women, this works against them even more in

combating perceptions of being less than and the capacity

to showcase only one emotion.

Digging deeper into this stereotype the history of which

spans into the spheres of academia and popular culture.

The feminist theorist, Patricia Hill Collins, coined a series

of intellectual frameworks that shape the ideas about

Black women, one being “controlling images.”

The controlling images framework encompasses historical

stereotypes from slavery, being labeled as either a mammy,

jezebel, or sapphire. Images showing Black women only

as overworked laborers, hypersexual, or too angry. All of

which expanded into media interpretations, fueling and

framing the public’s view of Black women.

One influential media depiction was the 1950’s television

show, Amos N’ Andy. Friend of the main character, Sapphire

Stevens was shown as an aggressive and demanding

woman. With the popularity of the show, the character

of Sapphire became associated with the image of what an

“angry” Black woman is as this representation acted as a

marker of comparison to be used against Black women

and only grew in different examples throughout time.

The 1970s’show Sanford and Son saw the character of Aunt

Esther inhabiting the “angry” Black woman stereotype as

she belittles the main character, Fred Sanford. Additional

depictions show the character Sheneneh from the 90s’

sitcom Martin, the 2018 Tyler Perry film, Acrimony and

even a meme of former The Real Housewives of Atlanta star,

Nene Leakes.

women become misread. In many ways, who Black women

truly are becomes invisible, all because Americans are

deeply uncomfortable with the idea that Black women

have the right to be outspoken and assertive.

Portrayals and images that have ingrained themselves

into the societal psyche and formulated an idea that is

considered true has affected Black women by having to

walk a proverbial tightrope of how they are perceived,

leading to them negotiating their anger and tempering

their responses.

Black women have been unfairly tasked with carrying the

weight and responsibility of their entire race and must

consider this labor when combating against stereotypes. A

relief is found among fellow Black women in recognizing

these familiar burdens and not reducing one another to

a simplified label.

As explained by Dr. Boylorn, “It is a way other people label

us, not a way we label or understand ourselves. We may

recognize anger or pain, but we understand it is not a

characterization as much as a response to misogynoir and

oppression. We know that our anger is not inherent, it is


This stereotype has been one that has and continues to

affect Black women but is also being used as a signifier of

their strength and weaponized to elevate their voices and

concerns to a society that has tried to silence them for

their own benefit.

Black women use their anger through movements such

as Black Lives Matter or pop culture influences such as

Beyoncé’s Lemonade. These examples and others showcase

Black women reclaiming the label of “Angry Black Woman”

to work for and not against them in order to push back

against negative imagery and injustices. Allowing Black

women to showcase their entire emotional spectrum and


These portrayals are reinforcements of the “angry” Black

woman trope. They cause Black women to be misperceived.

Any critique becomes seen as hypercritical. And so Black




Kaia Rolle was listening to a school

employee read her a story when two

officers came into the room to arrest

her. “What are those for?” the 6-year-old girl

asked the police officer who pulled out zip ties

that he would soon fasten around her wrists.

The Orlando Sentinel on February 24, 2020

quotes Kaia pleading, “Please, give me a second

chance.” Kaia was escorted to the police car.

The scene was captured on a body camera,

and the footage offered a glimpse into what

many young Black girls in America have long


The world ages Black girls up, which leaves

them unable to access the privileges of

childhood, like the benefit of the doubt in

punishment situations. The childhood of

Black girls looks different when compared to

other kids; therefore, it is essential that we

define and understand exactly what a Black

girl’s childhood is in the first place.

Today, we’ll discuss three main themes

that define a Black girl’s childhood:

aesthetic insinuations, adultification, and

discriminatory barriers in education, followed

by an implication for each theme because

even though Kaia’s case seems extreme, her

experience is as common in every Black girls’

childhood as Sunday morning cartoons.

Black girls should not have to worry about

the clothes they wear because it might invite

unwanted attention. Black girls deserve our

protection and it’s time we give it to them,

so let’s examine the theme of aesthetic

insinuations and its implication.

“We live in a country that loves Black culture

on white bodies but not on the bodies of

those who created these looks,” said the

New York Times. For example, Black girls

are reprimanded for clothing and hairstyles

deemed trendy when sported by white girls.

The Baltimore Sun explains, some schools

have gone as far as banning afrocentric

hairstyles like braids, twists and dreadlocks.

This discrimination of natural hairstyles is

detrimental to the self-image of Black girls.

Dancers from Miami Northwestern Senior

High School wore costumes that included a

long-sleeve cutout leotard and black boots.

The dance instructor, Traci Young-Byron,

questioned if the girls were being called

“strippers in training” only because they

were Black, comparing them to young white

dancers dressed in similar attire. Simply put,

the costumes were never the issue.

Clothing must not be the issue creating a

marginalized viewpoint that is causing young

Black girls to be seen as older. So, what is?

A Black mother informs the Washington

Post it started when Chloe was a toddler,

and people commented on her “curves.” She

combated that by putting her in one-piece

jumpers and shorts at the beach. Meanwhile,

her white niece wore two-pieces and no one

talked about her body.

Likewise, the Huff Post reveals that one Black

girl described an encounter with a police

officer who didn’t believe she was 15. He

insisted she was too old not to carry a driver’s

license. The color of her skin was enough

proof for the officer that she was lying about

her age. In fact, in both situations it seemed

the color of the girls’ skin was the deciding


Any Black mother could’ve told the researchers

that, from the time they are talking and

walking, little Black girls are deemed “fast,”

a word synonymous with promiscuity, leading

us to examine the theme of adultification and

its implication.

First, the history behind the over-sexualization

of Black women can be traced back to the

1800’s when Sarah Baartman’s buttocks

were paraded across Europe to provide

entertainment for Caucasian Europeans.


Even before mainstream media, Black women

were tantalized while Black girls watched and

endured their own adultification.

A Georgetown University report found, Black

girls, particularly ages 5 to 14, are seen as

more sexually mature than white girls. This

prejudiced view leads to Black girls becoming

more victims of sexual violence and disbelief

of their trauma. The Women’s Media Center

reports African American girls comprise over

40% of domestic sex trafficking victims in the


While running from danger, Black girls

encounter sexual predators capitalizing on the

lack of collective outrage expressed when they

disappear, causing Black girls to go missing and

stay missing.

Although, it is empowering for Black women

to reclaim their repressed sexuality. When it

is being done through tools that men use to

oppress women’s sexuality, it can be a doubleedged

sword. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

points out the dangerous over-sexualization

views of Black women, girls and femmes that

exist in the classroom to the boardroom along

with in the African-American community.

While songs by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion

can be empowering, some Black girls might

believe this is the only way to take ownership

over their bodies that are adultified, forcing

Black girls to get rid of their childhood even


Teachers, and even parents, expect Black girls to

exceed age-appropriate levels of responsibility

at home or assume they don’t need to be

comforted after emotionally distressing events,

according to researchers.

Discriminatory barriers in education limit

educational opportunities for Black girls.

Black girls are suspended at a rate five times

that of white girls, increasing their chances of

incarceration. This disparity is not based solely

on differences in behavior, even in preschool we

see these dangerous racist reactions hurting

Black girls.

The New York Times on April 17, 2020 reports, at

the ripe age of three, one Black girl was labeled

intentionally disruptive by her preschool

teacher who tried to film her and prove to her

mother she was a problem — the teacher never

got the footage, but accused her of pretending

to behave at the sight of the camera.

The Independent on October 24, 2019 reveals

a police officer pushed a Black 11-year-old girl

into a wall and violently forced her to the

ground after she accidentally brushed past a

teacher. Video shows the school resource officer

roughly handling the student — and falsely

accusing her of assault. As a result, the Black

girl experienced a minor concussion along

with scrapes and bruises. The school-to-prison

pipeline is simply another challenge Black girls

face since they are more likely to face harsh

discipline in schools and be exposed to police


Black girls do not have a childhood even when

at school. The National Women’s Law Center’s

report concludes, Black girls are predominantly

penalized under dress code rules echoing the

anecdotal evidence that every part of Black

girlhood — from their hair to their bodies and

clothing — has the potential to be penalized.

The report explains punishments send

dangerous messages to the community: how a

Black girl looks is more important than what

she thinks.

From the clothing she is critiqued for wearing,

the adultification of her body, to the ultimate

denial of an uninhibited education, a Black

girl’s childhood is filled with trauma no adult

should even endure.

Simply put, defining a Black girl’s childhood is

actually defining what she does not have.

To this day, Black girls are suffocated by societal

bias that seeps into their households, schools,

jobs, and other aspects of their life. This cycle

will continue to deprive Black girls of their

childhood unless society is informed about the

injustices they encounter. It’s time we let Black

girls be what they have always been: children.


Photography courtesy of Caroline Simmons, The Crimson White










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