Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Our Voices: A Black girl’s guide to a PWI

Tips and advice for Black women navigating predominantly white institutions
Daily Collegian/ Nick Archambault

As we conclude “The Black Diamond” series, I would like to take the time to share a few things that have helped me navigate life as a Black woman attending the University of Massachusetts and hopefully, it will help some of you. I am so fortunate to have been able to share some of the most prominent issues affecting Black women today. Working to create a more equitable place for all shouldn’t be limited; we should continue to grow by sharing and developing what we are most passionate about.

Mental Health

When first coming to college, it’s vital to find a good support system. I have had my fair share of mental health struggles before and during my first few semesters at UMass. I dealt with imposter syndrome, which is defined as having unfounded feelings of self-doubt and incompetence. A few strategies I’ve found combat these feelings of negativity in an academic setting are by journaling and writing affirmations. Remember that you did the work and deserve to be in this space. On campus, I have found attending Always Forward sessions extremely helpful. Always Forward is a Black group virtual supportive space dedicated to being a listening ear to Black undergraduate students at UMass.


Taking time to care for yourself is the next component of this guide. Last week, a Black hair care station called People’s Beauty Supply opened in People’s Market. It supplies Black women at UMass with all their haircare needs, such as braiding hair and gels. It is a Black and female-owned business run by a UMass student, Zih Nche.

Build community

The Black community at UMass was one of my primary reasons for attending the University. I am so grateful to have seen so many student-led groups make such a significant impact on campus. As a member of the Haitian American Student Association (HASA) and editor-in-chief of The Rebirth Project, I’ve learned the importance of having a community; combining a shared interest or culture can give you a greater sense of belonging. Some Black cultural organizations I would recommend for Black women looking for their niche on campus would be the Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA), African Student Association (ASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Black Women in Medicine, SheisGoals, Cape Verdean Student Alliance (CVSA) as well as many more.

One of my favorite quotes is “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” by Shirley Chisholm. I would use this quote to strongly express the importance of taking up space, doing what you love and standing firm in your beliefs. That, to me, is what it means to be a Black Diamond.

Christmaelle Vernet can be reached at [email protected].

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