Students found “CultureX,” spirit group for black students

Bithia Dantoumda

After talking together about how they feel underrepresented in spirit groups at UT, Jalesha Bass and Christina Hillard decided to co-found CultureX  — a coed spirit group exclusively for black students.

Co-presidents Bass, junior journalism and communication and leadership double major, and Hillard, junior sociology major, said they founded CultureX in Dec. 2018, but the group became an officially registered organization on campus in January. Chelsea Jenkins, CultureX public relations and marketing chair, said the coed spirit group currently has eight officers and began recruiting for general members this semester. 

When black students first arrive to campus, Hillard said it is a big culture shock for them most of the time. Hillard said she shared this experience, so it partly prompted them to create the organization. 

Hillard said the group’s main objective is to create more safe spaces for black students on campus. She said students are welcome to apply until the officers close the application.

“We have fun with other spirit groups, but there’s a difference,” Hillard said. “There were either non-people of color spirit groups or people of color spirit groups but not black spirit groups. We decided to start this and see how it goes because we want a created space for us.”

Radio-television-film junior Jenkins said she wants to give students opportunity to feel accepted here and know that they are not alone.

“When I first got here, all I did was just kind of sit in my dorm room,” Jenkins said. “When we were talking about this organization and thinking of ways we could bring this to campus, it just reminded me of some of the things I went through here during my first years at UT, feeling like I wasn’t accepted because of cultural differences.”

Students who are interested in CultureX can attend a social or reach out to the spirit group through their social media, where the group posts weekly updates and activities. Hillard said the fee to join is $125, but the funds can be paid through fundraising or with a payment plan.

“I joined other spirit orgs on campus, but I didn’t feel welcomed,” neuroscience sophomore Esther Egbulonu said. “During the beginning of the school year when they have orgs coming out and showing information, I didn’t really see anything that I liked. When I saw that there was a black spirit group, I was pretty interested and came out.”