My Sista’s Keeper, an open forum and mental health check-in, was held Feb. 23 in the Diversity Lounge. The event was hosted by Diversity Student Programs and the Topeka Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta (DST) and planned by Ariel Strachan, a graduate student of forensic science and an alumnae member of DST.
The purpose of this event was to provide a space where women of color can express themselves freely, according to Strachan.
“At the end of the day we are all at a predominantly white institution,” Strachan said. “I want them to know that there is somebody they can talk to, someone they can confide in, as well as getting to know more people.”
A predominantly white institution is a college or university where over 50% of the student population identifies as white, according to the Encyclopedia of African American Education. Teresa Taylor Williams, the Diversity Student Programs director and alumna member of DST, said that in 2018, ESU’s student population was 68% white, 3.8% Black and around 10% Hispanic.
Kwanequa Jones, a mental health professional and alumna of DST in Topeka, led this event. Before coming to ESU, Jones held the same event at Washburn University and the University of Kansas.
Jones led the group in several discussions including on the difficulties people of color have while attending a predominantly white institution and how to overcome generational curses.
A generational curse is a negative behavior that persists throughout generations of historically disadvantaged people, according to Jones.
A’Kena Longbenton, instructor of instructional design and technology, talked about her struggles overcoming her own family’s generational curse. She is the first person in her family to obtain a bachelor’s degree as well as an educational specialist degree. Her accomplishments inspired several of her siblings to go to school and obtain degrees and careers.
“I am completely over the moon for how it went,” Williams said. ‘’Simply because student engagement this year during the pandemic and the winter has not been great. It is definitely over and above what I expected.”
Amy Guillen, a senior sociology major, attended the event and said that she really enjoyed it.
“It (ESU) is a PWI, predominantly white institution, so we don’t really see a lot of people like us in our classrooms and social settings,” said Guillen. “So, I really like that this brought us together and it was a really good experience.”