A Knox Magazine Exclusive: Interview with ABLE Co-Presidents

A Knox Magazine Exclusive: Interview with ABLE Co-Presidents


-My name is Nikyra Washington, and I’m co-president of ABLE, and I’m in my second year at Knox. -My name is Naja Woods, I’m the co-president of ABLE, and I’m a senior at Knox. -When I first came to Knox, I was actually looking for an organization where I feel like I could have a black experience on this campus. Given that it’s a predominantly
white institution, I still wanted to have a black experience. There’s a day where all the clubs come out during orientation, and that’s where I found out about ABLE, and I was like, “wow, I have to stop by— I really want to get involved.” -For me, it was a little different; I think on my roommate application, I put that I wanted to live with someone who was a minority, and so they put me in ABLE, which was the predominant all-black house on campus. At first, I didn’t go to any of the meetings or anything because I was a first-year, I really didn’t know what ABLE was about, and then they’re like, “oh, since you live in this house, you need to come to the meetings,” and so I came to the meetings, and I’ve discovered that this is a place where I can go and be myself, and talk about issues that pertain to black students on campus and around the world. -As I was coming into ABLE, a lot of things that I wanted to discuss in terms of social justice issues happening to the black community outisde/off-campus was police brutality, and then I felt like ABLE gave me that sense to talk about police brutality, but also other issues that were happening towards the black community, and what was happening from within the black community. And then from there, once I figured out what the campus was like, and what we could critique, and everything like that, I started to realize, wow, there are a lot of great resources on campus for black students that we should expand upon, and that we can make open to the campus. There’s a lot of things I feel like a lot of black students don’t know about, or who to go to, or what events are out there that ABLE provides, and that the community provides for black students, and that’s when I kind of wanted to take a leadership position in ABLE, so we can get that word out there. -Well, we’ve had plenty of events; we’ve had marches, where we collaborated with other groups on campus. I think last year we had.. What did we have, a protest? Yeah, where we walked around Galesburg and the
community, just to spread the word about Black Lives Matter and those issues. -When it comes to activism, there are so many different levels, and I think everybody is on a different level in terms of their activism, so I feel like that’s what I really like about ABLE, is that we have a wide range of opportunities for people to participate in activism, whether it be small-scale or big-scale, and for example, our daily meetings: I see that as like activism. The fact that we’re talking about this, the fact that we’re having a dialogue, for people who might not even have these dialogues in their regular life, or want to know more about black students and their experiences but don’t have that opportunity to do that, so that’s why I feel like our meetings are really great. Of course, since it’s ABLE’s 50th anniversary, and Black History Month is coming up, we’re hosting a lot of events where we’re able to speak on issues in regards to the black experience, but also talk about the beauty in being black, because I think that’s important as well, and providing a home for black students on this campus, and other students who would like to be a part of this change. -I think there’s been this stigma about ABLE, where we only talk about issues that bring us down, but we also have to recognize that we love to celebrate black culture, and that’s something that ABLE does as well. We like to talk about black artists, black success, and just things that pertain to black people in our community, so I think that that’s very important to
share as well. -I do think that ABLE’s been really effective in making changes in different ways, so one: I feel like it’s given students such as myself a place on campus where they feel comfortable, and they can say that they have a home, and then also, similar to what I talked about earlier, I think that resources on this campus are very important. -I think we’ve gotten the word out about ABLE, but that’s not the only important thing. The fact of the matter is, we want students to feel like they have somewhere to go where they can talk about issues and not worry about what others are gonna think. Like, “oh, I don’t want to just talk about black issues.” Well, this is a house and a place where students can go and talk about these issues that are affecting them and others around them. Over the years, ABLE has become a safe space for students of color, and it’s a place where we can also collaborate with other students of color on campus to talk about issues that are affecting us similarly. That’s just really important for us. -Just in general, from what I’ve heard, it’s been hard in the past or cultural clubs to collab, but I feel like that’s something that we’re doing a lot better, especially because I feel like we have a close connection, and we are aware of who the other exec members are, and who the members are of other culture clubs, with which helps tremendously, because I think it’s really hard to collaborate if you’re like, “who’s the president of this?” So we’ve actually had some collaborations already with Harambee, when they had their African Week. Something that we’re trying to do, too, is collaborate more with Lo Nuestro as well, because there’s a lot of crossover between the Latinx community and the black community. There’s so much that we can learn from faculty and staff, especially since we have an amazing faculty and staff who have been here during the time that ABLE has started, and I think that’s amazing. -Our biggest alum event is the homecoming event during the fall, and so I think that that’s been nice, because we’ve got connected with some of the alums and they’ve been resources for us. -We actually have an organization known as BAN, which is the Black Alumni Networking Committee, and basically, they are our network for understanding
who our alumni are, and who, specifically, was connected to ABLE. We’re always an open space, the ABLE house is open. we’re always open for you to come and talk to us as exec, if you’re ever like, “hmm, I have a question, but I don’t know who to go,” to you can always feel free to come to Naja or I. We’re very open, and we love to tell you more.

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