Jada and Monique, tell us about NIA.
Brown: NIA is an organization for women of color on campus. Our goal is to create sisterhood within the community and to have a safe space where women on this campus can feel like they can convene, have their voices heard, and they can feel supported.
Peters: I agree with Monique. It’s more about making sure women of color have a space on campus where our voices are not overlooked. If we feel like certain things that are discussed in the classroom or discussed in the Lafayette community may not resonate with us, we have a space through NIA where we can have conversations that connect each other and where we won’t feel uncomfortable. It’s nice to have a safe space where you can just go and hang out, and where the door is always open.
How does NIA help students to support one another?
Peters: Unlike Monique [who is an international student], I didn’t have a group that I could automatically connect with or just meet initially before I met the general population. So for me, NIA was that place where I could go and meet people, which was important. I knew that I’d be able to recognize certain faces and feel more comfortable. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without NIA.
Brown: One of our programs that we do is a Big Sis Little Sis mentorship program. It’s another way for us to be more personal with each other within the group. Seniors and juniors are assigned a little sister (a first-year or sophomore). And this program is completely optional. They fill out an application and tell us about themselves, and then we match them. Last semester we held a brunch for everyone in the Interfaith Chapel in Hogg Hall. Throughout the semester, we have smaller events. For the end of the semester, we hosted a Self-Care Sunday holiday-themed event where there was hot chocolate, eggnog, teas, face masks, etc. It’s important to come together and connect with each other.
What has been your favorite part of NIA so far?
Peters: I think my favorite is either our board bonding events or our formals. I also love the co-sponsorships. Last semester we got to co-sponsor a formal, which had a Harlem Renaissance theme. We also co-sponsored with BOL and hosted a paintball trip. It allows us to connect to people outside of our organization and within other multicultural organizations.
Brown: My favorite aspect of NIA is the mentorship program. I have two “littles,” and I just love having them over for dinner. Like Jada, we invite both of our littles over and cook dinner for them.
Peters: Last semester we had pizza-making with our littles. Food is our way of welcoming people and giving them a taste of home and comfortability.
Have you held any NIA events in the new Portlock Black Cultural Center? Do you have plans to utilize the space this spring?
Brown: Yes! We held our induction ceremony at Portlock last semester. This ceremony is where the old board passes the torch to the new board. We utilized the porch and the sidewalk (because we couldn’t all fit!) for this ceremony. We involved our past president, Melissa Niles ’21, a member of NIA, Josette Peters ’21, and also our past historian, Nastasia McDonald ’21. Since COVID, there was a disconnect between what NIA was and then us trying to figure out how to take it forward. Our former board members had the full Lafayette experience, and we wanted them to share with us what NIA was for them. The Q&A session was very impactful. Following that session, we held our induction ceremony on the porch of Portlock.
Peters: Last semester we used to hold our general body meetings in the NIA house on Monroe Street. But this semester we decided to change to Portlock. We received feedback from students that because Portlock is across from Farinon, it is more accessible for students and is more open. For us, we just want to be able to show students that Portlock is a space that Black and brown students can use with or without an organization. And sometimes it takes an organization for a person to just get that initial step and to feel comfortable. So if we have to be the door for them, we don’t mind. Portlock is a start. There needs to be a multicultural center that allows all students of color the same opportunity.
What other clubs and organizations are you involved in?
Brown: I’m involved in the International Student Association and the Hispanic Finance Association. I’m also in the Salsa Club. And there’s ABC; I attend events for ABC as well.
Peters: I am a member of ABC as well. I am a part-time cook in dining services at Lower, an open education fellow at the library, and a member of the Outdoor Society. I recently applied and was accepted for America Reads. I will be working with children throughout the Lehigh Valley. And this semester I will be dancing with the Prestigious Pardettes, a new majorette dance team that was recently created to bring diversity in the dance community at Lafayette. We had a showcase last semester and look forward to performing at basketball games and other events in the future.