Black women on Albion College’s campus, both students and alumni, have been doing phenomenal work to create a more inclusive space for marginalized students.
From Ida B. Wells to Angela Davis to Laverne Cox, Black women have historically been on the front lines as trail blazers for change while simultaneously being one of the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected women in this country and around the world. Despite being constantly struck down by society, Black women continually rise up.
Black women on Albion’s campus are no different. Despite all the trials and tribulations they have to face on an everyday basis, Black women at Albion continue to take charge in leadership roles and make campus a place for the better. And they deserve their credit.
The Pleiad’s “Black Women Winning” series aims to highlight Black women on campus and all they have achieved and continue to achieve.
Jada Stewart, a junior from Chicago, is president of Black Student Alliance (BSA); a student worker at the Intercultural Affairs (ICA) office; a self professed-entrepreneur and mentor; and an active community member.
In anything that Stewart is a part of, she is not afraid to speak up when things need to be improved. As a student worker, she is helping ICA start its social media presence by encouraging staff of ICA to create introductory videos explaining who they are and what ICA is all about.
“Currently, I am in the process of trying to figure out how I can help ICA better do their job,” said Stewart. “I explain to them regularly how there’s a lot of students that don’t know about the ICA office and, you know, if it’s intercultural affairs, all minorities should be aware of that.”
Stewart said she believes it is important for students of color to know that there are professors and other staff that are of color and willing to support.
In addition to ICA, BSA is another organization that Jada Stewart has made a difference in, especially since becoming the president.
“One difference I made to BSA was bringing a little bit of organization and stability, as far as events goes, as far as e-board goes, as far as professionalism goes and bringing more awareness to BSA like it used to be years ago,” said Stewart.
Being a leader means not only being a leader on paper but being a leader in one’s community. Stewart experienced this firsthand by attending Lewis Chapel in Albion until COVID-19 forced the church to close temporarily. She said she believes it was a fulfilling experience to be surrounded by the citizens of Albion.
“I had an opportunity to work with the community and make a connection with the community while also making a difference on campus,” said Stewart.
Stewart has also been working to make Albion College a more welcoming space for the Black community on and off campus.
“I feel like I have been doing a great job of making a difference in bringing the community and BSA together,” said Stewart. “I also try to incorporate the community members [in events] to make them feel welcomed, because I am aware of the past tension that the school and the Black community has had with one another.”
Stewart reaches out to members of the organizations she is a part of and lets them know that she is a resource for support. This same kindness extends to first-years who she comes across.
“I regularly mentor freshmen, just on my free time, like giving them advice or guiding them,” said Stewart. “Anything or any way I can help, I always make sure they know. Whether it’s a brush they need or they need help studying, just let me know.”
It is important to Stewart that she creates a comfortable and secure space for first-years of color, especially those who are in the Black community.
“It’s not necessarily official. It’s just me taking people under my arm and checking in on them,” said Stewart. “Just to let somebody know, ‘I’m an upperclassmen and I understand what you are going through, and if I can do it, if I am making it through, just know these next few years, you can make it through, even with the struggle and all. You have someone that’s of your color that can relate to you.’”
Asking anyone on campus where they’ve gotten their nails done or reusable lashes from, nine times out of ten, people will say Jada Stewart did them. Stewart is using her skills and business savviness to create a brand for herself everyday.
“I like to do nails in my free time, something I’d like to perfect,” said Stewart. “I also sell lashes, reusable lashes, so basically I have entrepreneurial skills that I am working on along with me majoring in economics and management. I am doing things on the side that’ll help me in the long run.”
Self-made business is nothing new to Stewart. She has been making her own money from a very young age. She has invested money in herself, created her own logo and wants to continue to grow in becoming the brand she wants to see in the future.
“I was inspired to do nails because I wanted to take a summer off from doing internships and working,” said Stewart. “I’ve been working and doing internships since I was 13, so I’ve never really had the summer to myself. I was always on the go all the time, but I still needed a source of income and so I got to thinking.”
What was just a hobby during the summer became something that Stewart really started to care about two years after starting her journey in doing nails freshman year.
“I kept going, and I became passionate about it. And then, people started to acknowledge my work, and the more people acknowledged my work, the more motivation it gave me to do better,” said Stewart.