Lydia Matteson | Contributing Artist
Though Tulane is focusing on increasing racial diversity year by year, black students still make up a relatively small demographic at the university — less than 9 percent, according to Tulane’s most recently released statistics. Given these numbers, it can be easy to feel out of place in Tulane’s predominantly white community — especially for black women. This was why the African American Women’s Society was established.
Lydia Mattson | Contributing Artist
“Black women on campus exist in this really unique space where you’re at a [predominantly white institution], but then you’re also a woman, and you’re also black, and you’re at an intersection of really difficult spaces to navigate,” AAWS President Abi Mbaye said. “[At the Society], we just get it.”
The AAWS is dedicated to providing a community for black women on campus. The organization is meant to be less of an intense, activity-based extracurricular and more of a place where black women can just come and simply relax.
“The mission is to provide space where black women can come together and support each other … for black women to congregate outside of campus where we can talk about our personal needs, our personal experiences, which [are] different from everybody else’s,” Mbaye said.
Mbaye understands the importance of AAWS functioning as a safe space.
“It’s just a really positive space where it’s more focused on emotional and spiritual well-being rather than … creating events,” Mbaye said.
This semester, the society is focusing on helping black women on campus become more aware of the wellness resources available to them.
“We’re gonna have the Well come in and talk about mental health for black women. Because we have a lot of new freshmen, and I want them to be aware of … the resources they have that I didn’t know when I was a freshman.”
In the same way sororities provide sisterhood and mentorship to predominantly white chapter members, AWWS brings these same gifts to young black women who can go a day on campus without seeing anyone who looks like them.
“I noticed particularly for the freshmen … it’s just a space for them to talk about, ‘Oh my gosh, I came to Tulane and they said we’re the most diverse class. I don’t really see it. I’ve been going through this, I’ve been going through that,’” Mbaye said. “Upperclassmen [can] really provide support for them.”
The feelings of isolation that often accompany being a black woman in a white space can be alleviated with the community the society cultivates. And at a school as racially homogenous as Tulane, the importance of this cannot be understated.
The AAWS meets biweekly in the Newcomb Institute House. Anyone interested can join its Orgsync page to receive more information.