By Giovanteey Bishop, In Our Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Next Generation Leadership Institute Program Manager
With the spread of COVID-19, many campuses across the nation were faced with sudden closures leaving students to bear the brunt of transitioning to distance learning. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are likely to get hit especially hard, while also having to endure financial blows as a result of the pandemic. Many HBCU students are still grappling with adjusting to the new online classroom layout while also facing strenuous financial obligations. Considering the additional challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the lives of Black women and families, it is more important than ever to invest in Black women, families, and young people. The Next Generation Leadership Institute provides an opportunity to train young people in advocacy, community organizing, and media while incorporating a strong foundation of Reproductive Justice values.
On June 11, I attended a virtual summit hosted by Blavity and The United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The interactive digital forum was entitled The State of the Black College Student: Exploring How Higher Education Can Support A Generation During COVID-19. The summit consisted of two-panel discussions with the UNCF, HBCU administrators, and student advocates. The first panel, “What Now? How to Help the Black Student During COVID-19” focused on how higher education institutions can continue to support and provide resources to students while campuses and dorms are closed. The second panel, “How to Engage Students and Prepare for What’s Next,” discussed how higher education institutions and their partners can successfully prepare students for their next semester back on campus and into the future.
After attending the State of the Black College Student, I served as a distinguished speaker onPlatform’s The Real (Working) World DC: Nonprofit panel. Due to COVID-19, many young leaders lost internship opportunities and the valuable learning and networking experiences that go with them. Platform decided to launch The Real (Working) World DC, a series of panels and workshops geared toward helping young people break into the nonprofit field in Washington, D.C. The conversation focused on lifting up young professional’s experiences and providing advice for students looking to transition into the nonprofit workspace. I shared how my work as the program manager of the Next Generation Leadership Institute, at In Our Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is centered on training HBCU students to become Reproductive Justice leaders. I provided insight on how my efforts also amplify the voices the voices of our fellows. Propelling HBCU students to serve as champions at the forefront of the Reproductive Justice movement.
While we navigate through these challenging times it is imperative to continue to be a resource for HBCU students. We are striving to best serve our Next Generation Leadership Institute Fellows at In Our Own Voice and will continue to lead the charge on supporting HBCU students through COVID-19 and beyond.