Imagine coming to a school like Millsaps College not knowing anybody. Whether you came out of state or even out of the general area of Jackson, Mississippi. The school prides itself on its tight-knit student body, but sometimes that’s not enough for our more introverted students to break out their shells. Especially for our students of color where their ability to make friends relies on their skin color and the biases based on said skin color. This is not a Millsaps-only problem, but with the demographics being majority white students (as expected of a Predominantly White Institution), students of color can feel left out culturally or misunderstood. Depending on a student’s major or even something that is chosen arbitrarily like our Foundations Groups, they may be the only one of their race (or in my case the only Black woman in my group), and that can be a very scary and uncomfortable experience. Humans are, after all, naturally social creatures and we try to find people who look like us to feel comfortable and while that comes with no guarantee at least there is a feeling of belonging to encourage students to stay at Millsaps. Students who don’t naturally gravitate to friend groups are left alone and scared that they won’t enjoy their college experience. Many of us fear that that will happen and somehow end up with friends, but others aren’t so lucky. So, with a school that is predominantly white, with many majors being predominated by white students, and the distribution of race throughout our Foundation Groups, how do people of color meet up to share their culture? How do women of color forge healthy relationships with other women of color?
Enter, Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects. Bethany Jordan, a student body association representative, felt that there was a need for a safe space for the Black women on campus. Luckily enough, Millsaps alumna Natalie Collier had founded Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects and decided to help Jordan build the organization on Millsaps’s Campus. According to Khaylah Scott, the current president of Lighthouse, “Our [current] Vice President, Bethany, had been working so hard with Student Life to bring the Lighthouse to campus. We had already had our own relationships with Natalie and the women of the Lighthouse. We just wanted to make it official!” Soon, not only was a relationship between Collier, the Lighthouse Staff, and the Black women of Millsaps established but also the organization and the organization’s constitution. In Fall of 2019, the Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects of Millsaps organization had their first general meeting and the turnout, to Scott’s excitement, was great! However, COVID-19 put a wrench in their plans but that didn’t stop them! “We made things work,” said Scott. “Further building [the] community in virtual spaces. When we returned to campus in Fall of 2020, we’ve experienced nothing but success and growth!”
As of 2021, Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects board members Khaylah Scott (President), Bethany Dockery (Vice-President), Areial Thomas (Activities Coordinator), Brittany Wilson (Secretary) and Lorin Brown (Treasurer) have put together many events held by the Black women of Millsaps for the Black Women of Millsaps and whomever else who would like to participate in a very rich, deep-rooted culture! Four group study halls throughout the year, a poetry slam, volunteer opportunities on and off campus, food drives, working in tandem with the Helping Hands organization on campus, and at least one meeting every other week and every two weeks that encourage bonding, singing, dancing, games, food, and free merchandise; these only scratch the surface of what this group does on campus. Not only that, but Lighthouse also works with the Pan-African Student Association (P-ASA, President: Lorin Brown), Male Empowerment Network (M.E.N, President: Nic Hayes), the National Pan-Hellenic Council “Divine 9” fraternities and sororities on campus: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (AKA, President: Loren Aubert), Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. (ΖΦΒ, President: Jailyn Newell) and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (ΑΦΑ, President: Douglas Watson). Through all these networks, every Black student on Millsaps can find a place where they feel they belong and are comfortable and you even make new friends in the long run!
These emulsion of groups create a feeling of belonging where whenever you turn, a student will be there to greet you and ask how if you’re coming to the next meeting! If students knew that there would be a group welcoming them that would understand them and their culture, would they be as anxious? That is on the individual, but these organizations make the move from high school to college life a bit smoother and can help any introvert out of their shells (take it from me!).
That is why this issue of the Purple and White paper would like to spotlight the Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects of Millsaps! Thank you for doing everything you do to make our Black students feel more comfortable and welcomed on campus!