Black women unified through The Sisterhood

Nihal Manjila, Staff Reporter

“We want to give black women on campus support and provide opportunities for growth academically, professionally, spiritually, emotionally and generally,” said third-year student Yannique Stewart, president of The Sisterhood.

The Case Western Reserve University community lauds a number of cultural and ethnic groups with new ones taking shape every year, including The Sisterhood, which was founded in the spring of last year. The primary goal of The Sisterhood is the empowerment of black women at CWRU.

The Sisterhood currently has about 40 members and meets twice a month in the Thwing Center Lounge, with about 10 members in regular attendance. Meetings include discussions, watching and discussing movies and planning for events, but the group hopes to host speakers in the near future. Its most recent meeting on Oct. 30 primarily included planning and logistics for The Sisterhood’s upcoming projects.

Aside from its bi-monthly meetings, the organization puts on four major events throughout the academic year: two Soul Food Sales, the Hair Expo and the Hair Workshop. The Sisterhood also has tentative plans to throw a party for the black community at CWRU, depending on funding and time.

The Soul Food Sale is a semesterly fundraising event where members of The Sisterhood come together to cook and sell food to raise funds for the organization. The event not only raises money for the organization, but provides a bonding experience for its members. Also during the fall semester, The Sisterhood’s Hair Expo gives black women in the CWRU community an opportunity to have their hair braided by local braiders before the Career Fair for reasonable prices: $10 to $35 compared to a typical $80 to $200.  

During the spring semester, the organization will host its Hair Workshop and another Soul Food Sale. The Hair Workshop focuses on helping black women learn how to properly care for their hair and educating the community on black women’s hair. This is facilitated through samples, demonstrations and other visible activities.

According to Stewart, the Workshop holds special value due to the prominence of the natural hair movement. “It is important for women who make the decision to go natural [to] know how to look good and feel confident with their natural hair,” she said.

The Sisterhood also encourages women who choose to relax their hair to keep it as healthy as possible.      

“In the black community, especially to black women, hair is more than just hair; it is a status symbol, a point of contention and overall important part of our culture,” said Stewart. To this end, The Sisterhood works to support the care of and personal expression through hair with events tailored for that purpose.

The organization is lead by Stewart, fourth-year student Oluchi Onyeukwu as treasurer and first-year student Doraja Lake as secretary, but lacks a vice president. This vacancy poses a challenge in terms of what the organization aims to accomplish, so new members are encouraged to seek out these positions to help boost The Sisterhood’s campus presence and role in tackling campus issues.

Recently, the University announced its decision not to appoint a full-time faculty member in African American history due to budget issues. While the process’ ongoing nature raises a hesitation to speak out, Stewart said, “I feel disappointed [that the administration] made that choice. We find that, when matters directly affect us as the black community here, we are not consulted as we should be. We are the ones most affected by decisions such as this, yet we are not consulted consistently.

The Sisterhood’s impact at CWRU is only growing from here.