“We want every student that comes to Mt. A to feel like it is their institution too.” This fall, Mt. A launched a new Black Caucus to support Black students, staff, faculty, and alumni. I spoke with Danai Bélanger, Mt. A’s Director of Student Life, to learn more about how this group will foster an inclusive and caring environment for students here on campus.
When asked about the main goal of the Black Caucus, Bélanger responded that the Caucus arose from a need for a formalized Black community on campus. Black students, as she described, are “hyper-visible here on campus.” Bélanger emphasizes this visibility, expressing that Black students “do not have the chance to be anonymous,” and the experience of attempting to blend in can be challenging and exhausting. Therefore, the goal of the Black Caucus is to provide a sense of community and affinity to Black students. Bélanger added to this goal, expressing her desire for “every student that comes to Mt. A to feel like it is their institution too, they can identify with Mt. A and that every Mt. A experience is a valid experience.”
Bélanger elaborated on the supports that will be available through the Caucus. “The Caucus is the community, most of the support will be housed through the space.” She then described the space saying that it will be managed through Mt.A’s Diversy, Equity, and Inclusion advisor Lucy Ofori. Furthermore, Bélanger shared some of the issues that Black students face, such as services the community is missing. “For example, you can’t get your haircut in Sackville if you are a student; you can’t really find hair products. When you talk about the access to things that every other student has, it really takes out of the experience, because nothing around you is there to support you. We are hoping to invite a barber to come onto campus and [have] someone to talk about hair care.” While many students may not think of haircare often, not having access to essentials like hair products can be very isolating. Braids and Fades Fridays, will not be the only initiative that they launch. “We are also hoping to have things like dialogues, poetry slams, and board games. It’s really just a community for anyone who identifies as Black or anyone who is supportive of Black students. It’s not just for Black students, it’s for everybody, but we want to center the Black experience in this space.’’
The Black Caucus on campus aims to be a supportive and caring environment for the Black community of Mt. A. This group is not exclusive to Black students; they are also reaching out to advocates of other marginalized groups on campus. The many supports that will be available for students such as, a dedicated safe space, Braids and Fades Fridays, and the Black Alumni Network will help ensure that all students feel like Mt. A is a community for them.