As a new, rising club representing African-American women in the Case Western Reserve University’s community, The Sisterhood hopes to inspire, empower and unite women under a strong sense of belonging and bonding between club sisters on campus, and also to expand their impact on an even larger level.
“Our goals encapsulate a large variety of discussion topics including feminism, professional development, hair care 101, relationship advice, intersectionality of race and sexual orientation, etc,” said third-year student and Sisterhood Treasurer Oluchi Onyeukwu, emphasizing how the club addresses serious topics relevant to current issues, but also hosts casual discussions which allow students to support one another on a more personal level.
“It’s nice to have fun, but what I enjoy even more is being real, discussing real issues that are affecting us every day,” she said. “I want to hear the thoughts, opinions and perspectives of [like-minded women] and those who may not [agree].”
Among The Sisterhood’s main goals include creating a community which allows members to provide both academic and personal resources and to embrace culture while thriving in the academic world. Second-year student and The Sisterhood President Yannique Stewart hopes The Sisterhood can provide resources related to various professional fields, especially for underrepresented black women in STEM.
In addition to providing academic support, Onyeukwu added, “I hope to develop a platform that will help launch our collective cause forward and propel my sisters so far up that no one man, woman or institution will be able to tell us what we can do, who we can be, where we can go, and what we are supposed to wear while getting there and doing our work.”
Stewart and Onyeukwu’s powerful statements and incentives inspired a mission that is strongly appreciated and respected in The Sisterhood.
Stewart cited situations in her own life which inspired her establishment of the organization she presides, describing her high school’s dynamic as “predominantly East Asian and Caucasian.” As she watched her younger sister grow up alongside similar demographics, Stewart pushed her to embrace her African-American culture instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
“I just don’t want [her] hair to be blonde and straight because [she] thinks it has to be; she wanted to change it because her friends had blonde, straight hair, and her friends were making fun of her poof balls,” Stewart said.
This personal experience inspired Stewart to create a club where young black women can share an inclusive, close-knit community that embraces their diverse roots and cultures. Additionally, Onyeukwu was inspired by the idea that The Sisterhood would be the perfect opportunity to meet friends and create long-lasting relationships, which, as a commuting student, Onyeukwu finds to be difficult.
Conceived entirely from Stewart’s and Onyeukwu’s personal backgrounds, The Sisterhood officially became active on campus this semester.
On Tuesday, March 6, The Sisterhood hosted their first major event: The Soul Food Drive. During midterms week, the sisters wanted to provide relief from stress and studying by delivering home-cooked soul food classics, including fried chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread to CWRU students anywhere on campus.
Despite a few incidents involving the fire department and smoky kitchens, according to both Stewart and Onyeukwu, the fundraiser received large interest and was well received by students.
Stewart explained that the money from The Sisterhood’s fundraisers will be used to fund ancestry DNA tests, which will give the club’s members insight in to the depth of their cultural roots and ancestry beyond just “Africa.” They also hope to raise enough money to fund biweekly grocery trips for fresher and healthier food in attempt to battle the obesity epidemic prevalent in the African-American community.
The Sisterhood hopes to increase its numbers through fliers, Activities Fairs, the Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative’s (UDC) World Expo and other campus-wide events. Stewart describes The Sisterhood’s long-term goal as outreach to encompass the broader community, beyond CWRU, and its short-term goal as “building a community of black women with casual and academic objectives”.
With regards to event planning, Stewart said, “We’re trying to get a few speakers to talk about violence against black women, specifically because black culture unfortunately has this idea [of] ‘Don’t hang your dirty laundry;’ pretty much what happens in your home stays in your home.”
By combating domestic violence, obesity and cultural misconceptions and celebrating African-American women, The Sisterhood hopes to bring a positive impact to not only the the CWRU community, but also those surrounding it.