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.
Khaiylah Johnson-Bustamante is a junior from Brooklyn, New York. She is the vice president of Black Student Alliance, a member of Albion College Local Sexual Assault Advocacy, the public relations officer for LGBrits, co-chair of Students With Power and founder of Styling Services.
Johnson-Bustamante continues to make an impression on campus through her academics, leadership and positivity as well.
“I’m majoring in mathematics and plan on utilizing that to create my own mathematical design language using systems of equations to design clothing,” said Johnson-Bustamante. “I’d like to make fashion more accessible and hopefully use that accessibility to attack the problem of fast fashion.”
Johnson-Bustamante believes that in order to lead on campus, she must first be authentic to herself despite society’s push for her to reflect certain assumptions others make of her.
“I don’t allow anyone to put me in any type of box, for example, sometimes I go by ‘Monica the Fashionable Mathematician,’” said Johnson-Bustamante, “I feel like I am always surprising people. They see me and expect one thing, and they see me with other people and expect another thing.”
Black women are often told that they are good at certain things like cooking, cleaning, dancing or doing hair, but Johnson-Bustamante has a different message for Black women who are constantly being told they are only made of one element.
“I will not allow people to make me feel like I can’t be multifaceted. Especially as a Black woman, [people] don’t want you to be that,” said Johnson-Bustamante.
A part of Johnson-Bustamante being unapologetically herself is her undeniably stylish clothing. In addition to the many positions she holds, Johnson-Bustamante is notorious for her fashion sense on campus.
“You have to get dressed every day, so you might as well find some type of enjoyment out of it,” said Johnson-Bustamante. “For me, this is my art. My mother said that to me, and it really is.”
Johnson-Bustamante allows her art and the way she takes care of herself to radiate throughout her advocacy.
“Sometimes, people just walk up to me and they’ll be like, ‘The way you dress every day, you’re an inspiration,’” said Johnson-Bustamante. “I am just doing what I can to make it through this world, and I’m glad they see that, because I will not conform. If I can give them hope, that gives me hope too.”
Johnson-Bustamante said she always tries to make sure she is holding the door open for those who do not feel welcome in certain spaces.
“I do make room, and I feel like, especially sense I am coming from a certain level of privilege, that people have a bit more tolerance and I have a bit more room to do these things for people who are more marginalized,” said Johnson-Bustamante.
Gatekeeping is something that keeps many marginalized people from acquiring opportunities that could benefit them in the long run. Johnson-Bustamante is working to put an end to that in the best way she can.
“I feel like if another girl were to come along and be doing the same thing as me, another Black girl, it would be like, ‘Oh she’s another one of those.’ It wouldn’t be like, ‘Who is this weird, crazy Black girl dressing up every day, doing whatever she wants?’” said Johnson-Bustamante.
When people are being themselves, younger generations recognize that. This opens a door for them to come along and not feel awkward or afraid when expressing their true identities. Johnson-Bustamante is taking her experiences from her first year at Albion and allowing them to make her stronger for those who are first-years after her.
“I do try to stand up for people in any space that I am in,” said Johnson-Bustamante. “I take a lot of leadership roles on this campus and any chance I get I let people know they are supported.”