Dig Baton Rouge

Black History Month: Students share experiences and answer questions regarding race and education

There’s no denying – February is a month full of celebrations. From Mardi Gras to Valentine’s Day, it seems that the festivities never end. Among those festivities is one of the most important times of the year – the celebration of Black History Month. This celebration is not only important for the black community, but for every culture to take part in because it shows the growth of our nation.

While great strides have been made, minorities still face many challenges in the world of academia. DIG caught up with a few LSU students and alumni to discuss some of the important issues surrounding education in the black community.

Recent sociology graduate, Breelyn Jackson shares her experiences:

Q:  What were some of the challenges you faced as a black student pursuing your bachelors degree?

Jackson:  “Well first, coming from a small Louisiana town to a large university like LSU, really opened my eyes.

“As a minority, you may not have all the financial opportunities that others may have. One of the biggest challenges I faced while being a student was paying for college.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many scholarships out there for minorities—but getting them is sometimes easier said than done.

“I feel that my school work sometimes lacked because I worked all the time. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to.”

Lisa Ford, 20-year-old business major, agrees with Jackson.

Ford:  “My dad is black and my mom is white so I have a pretty interesting point of view on race in the education sector.

“I never personally experienced hardship paying for college or having to work while being in college but I definitely see a need to have more accessible and affordable options for minorities. There are scholarships but those scholarships usually do not cover living expenses and which is why so many have to get jobs and eventually find it difficult to finish school or finish it strong.”

Michael Taylor, a 21-year-old interdisciplinary studies major says he somewhat agrees with Jackson and Ford; however, there seems to be a much bigger issue:

Taylor:  “I feel like it’s not the fact that African Americans do not have enough scholarships to fund college but it’s the lack of knowledge that is the problem. My first couple of years in college I had no idea about all the different things that were available to me. I think a lot of students like me just don’t know about these scholarships and programs that can help them.”

Q:  How can we fix these financial issues?

Taylor: “More exposure! There needs to be more places on campus [that] share information about scholarships for minorities. I know we have the financial aid office but they mostly deal with government funded scholarship, loans, and grants and not those scholarships, loans, and grants offered by organizations or businesses.”

Q:  There has been a long time debate in the black community as to whether it’s more beneficial to attend Historical Black Colleges or major universities such as LSU. What are your thoughts?

Jackson:  “I have nothing against historical black colleges.  In fact, many of my family and friends attends and have attended them but the reason I choose to attend LSU was simply because I wanted to experience all cultures while in college. I feel that I have learned so much and made so many friends because of it. I also think going to a school where there’s so many different races and cultures makes me more marketable in the career world.”

Ford:  “I don’t think one is any better than the other. I feel like it’s all about what you prefer. Some people prefer to smaller university and that’s why they choose colleges like Southern. I went to a small high school so I was ready for the big college experience. I wanted to go to a very large school.”

Taylor:  “I actually did attend a historical black college my first year of college and I’ve now been at LSU. I think both compare the same. But then again, I have never really understood the debate. I think it’s all about personal preference and the type of experience you want.”

Q:  How would you rate LSU when it comes to addressing important race-related matters?

Taylor:  “I think they listen. For example, last year there was a huge debate about the emergency texts alerts students receive when there’s a robbery and stuff like that. A lot of black people, myself included, felt like the description of the suspects were ambiguous and stereotyped many black males but since it was brought to their awareness I feel like they do better about describing suspects. They don’t just say black male wearing a black hoodie, because I mean that could be any black male in the winter – but they now give more accurate descriptions.”

Jackson:  “Like every university there can always be improvement but for the most part I’ve never noticed a big issues because they are usually addressed pretty quick.”

Ford:  “The only thing I would like to see is more of an awareness of Black History Month on campus. I feel it’s very important. A lot of important events happened here in Baton Rouge. It’s not a race thing it’s a nationalism thing. We’ve come a long way we should be proud and recognize the people who brought change which is what the celebration of the month is all about.”

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