Cultural organizations help form connections, provide safe spaces on campus

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Photo Credit: Emma George | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This article originally contained a series of direct quotes that the author paraphrased, and has been corrected to include the direct, unparaphrased quotes from the transcription of the interviews. The Texan deeply regrets this breach of our standards. Read the statement from the fall 2020 managing editor here.

During her first month on campus, Kenedi Houston joined an organization for Black and brown women and was given a care package filled with masks, T-shirts and notes of encouragement.

Every semester, some students of color join organizations with students from similar cultures and backgrounds. These groups help students find a sense of belonging at UT, which has historically had a predominantly white student body. This fall, cultural organizations are doing this virtually. 

Houston is originally from Dallas, Texas, and didn’t know anyone when she came to UT. She said she joined student organizations, such as FLI, to become more involved in campus life. 

FLI is designed to help Black and brown women achieve academic excellence, professional development and personal growth. 

“I felt really welcomed into these organizations,” political communication freshman Houston said. "Everyone was nice to me."

Biochemistry freshman Kiana Lowery also found community through FLI. In August, FLI hosted  BAWSE UP, a virtual event where industry leaders spoke to her and other Black and brown women about empowerment, financial well-being and goal setting. 

Lowery said the event and the organization in general have helped her find a community at UT.  

“Every time I attend a meeting, it feels very intimate, genuine and empowering to be surrounded by other Black and brown women who have a desire to be successful,” Lowery said.

Nina Mbonu, a Plan II and anthropology freshman, is a member of the Black Honors Student Association, which fosters community between UT’s Black honors students. 

The BHSA provides a safe space for Black honors students of all majors to network with other honors students and faculty.

“Historically, Black students have always been underrepresented in honors programs so just like having a community of all of us so we can feel less alone,” Mbonu said.

The organization hosts virtual activities such as game nights, discussion-based projects and team-building icebreakers. The BHSA also hosts discussion panels about topics such as setting goals and time management. 

Mbonu said that she is excited to participate in more activities and get to know the personalities of the other BHSA members. 

“I’ve learned a lot about stress management, and that you're not alone,” Mbonu said. “There’s a community of Black women on campus.”