JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Several students and alumni were united under the hashtag #BlackAtAstate on Twitter Wednesday.
The hashtag was created, just a day after many students told their stories of negative experiences at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with the hashtag #BlackAtUARK.
“I knew I wanted to say something, as soon as I saw the one they were doing at UARK. I mean, like you said, I knew A-STATE was going to have one as well,” Arkansas State University Alumna Jayla Wilson said.
Wilson graduated from ASU in 2016, with her degree in Creative Media Production. While she met some of her best friends and shaped her future, she says the experience could, at times, be lonely.
“I didn’t receive a lot of in your face discrimination, but there was like a lot of microaggressions and things like that just small, small things people say that they really shouldn’t have said,” Wilson said.
She says while many of her personal experiences were not blatant, it wasn’t hard to see how black students were treated compared to others.
“The white fraternities or sororities have these huge mansions on campus and they can have these parties and you don’t hear about them getting in trouble a lot,” Wilson said. “We just have these little flags and concrete benches that are supposed to represent us and our identities, it’s just, you can see the differences of the privilege that they had compared to the black sororities and fraternities.”
Her tweets were joined by many other alumni and she says that those who are older had worse experiences.
There were tweets not only about Greek life but advisors and University Police Department who mistreated.
Their tweets didn’t go unseen.
Chancellor Kelly Damphousse responding in a tweet saying:
“It is heartbreaking to read the #BlackatAstate posts by former and current A-State students. I am reading every post, and they are a tragic reminder of how far our campus has to go. I hear you all, and I have committed to not just listening, but acting to lead change,” Damphousse said in a tweet.
As an alum, Wilson says she has noticed his effort.
”I can see him being actively involved with these students and attending black events. Well, that wasn’t my experience when I went to A-State. So, we have more memories of the administration kind of putting our concerns aside and after like it wasn’t a big deal,” Wilson said.
She’s happy that Damphousse is showing a different look for administration, adding that when she was in school “administration kind of put their concerns aside and acted like it wasn’t a big deal.”
“He’s (Damphousse) aware of what all the students on campus are doing, not just the majority. And that’s what I feel like was the issue when I was there, the whole point of the Black Student Association is because we felt like black culture and black cultural awareness wasn’t being brought to campus so we had to kind of create something for ourselves, and at times, we were even judged for it,” Wilson said.
Now, she’s pushing students to use their voice especially when they have administrators there who want to listen.
“My favorite quote is actually ‘I’m a voice in this world and I deserve to be heard,' so use your voice, and also what you put into something is what you’re going to get out. I know many black students who came into A-State with me and they did not finish, because they felt this isn’t a very welcoming place for me but the more you’re involved, you will find that community,” Wilson said.
Telling those who are pursuing their degree in the same place she did, to do their part.
“Just sitting there complaining, or something, it’s always going to be this way. There will be no change. So, you have to be the change,” Wilson said.
She says it’s important that alumni continue to share their experiences so that current students do not have to experience the same thing.