The spotlight beams on Black student leaders, and it’s exhausting

By Justyn Fulton, Feb. 9, 2021

With the lack of diversity for Black students on college campuses, there tends to be social issues that inevitably arise. And with these issues comes discomfort within the Black student population, making the life of a Black student leader difficult to help navigate the storm. 

This is especially true in my case. I’ve been so busy the past few years making sure I’m doing my part to serve my community, yet hardly anybody takes interest in how I’m doing personally.

It all started when I experienced these social issues in the summer of 2019, when I was working for a summer program to help recruit and create a pipeline to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I had been racially profiled at the Los Olivos Dining Hall. The university Police were called, they talked to me about the situation. Yet, who knows what could have happened that night.  

I then found out my experience was similar to other Black students on campus. A student had campus police called on him due to a person not knowing a student worked in a building. Another student got campus police called on him for simply wearing red shoes, which sparked the school’s Red Shoe Protest.  

Issues like these don’t just happen at CPP. California State University, Fullerton Phi Sigma Kappa Chapter advertised a fundraiser with the n-word as the watermark on its flyer. Luckily, this issue was covered by ABC 7; otherwise, I fear that it would’ve been swept under the rug.  

Because of these disheartening situations — there is always a new class of Black Freshmen that arrive at these universities looking to make a change, looking to make a name for themselves. In the fall of 2018, I was one of those freshmen here at CPP. I had the ambition of a natural-born hustler. I attended every Black organization/club meeting and managed to convince most of the young black men in my class to come with me.  

As I started to progress in the leadership realm within Black organizations, I started participating in things such as BroncoLead that same year. However, at the time, I was just a freshman. Other students in the Black community would tell me that I would eventually run this campus. 

By my sophomore year, I was considered among the Black student leaders on campus. People knew me to be dedicated, and a hard worker for my fellow Black students. People on campus knew that I went by the quote of the late great Malcolm X, “By any means necessary.  

It wouldn’t matter how long the task would take, I would see it through. I became the treasurer and scheduler of the Brothers Movement, a club on campus for Black men. However, as I started achieving more and more, people were checking in on me less and less. It got to the point where I was doing check-ins on students, but no one was checking on my progress in school 

People were checking in, but only for my stance on important matters. An example of this was the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 presidential election. They would even ask me how I was going to handle difficult situations on campus — such as the Red Shoe Protest, or the townhall discussions. 

Now I’m a junior and Black Student Union president. Since I began, all eyes have been on me. From my professors, to the Office of the President. They check in to see if I am truly serving my community, and how I truly represent them. Sometimes I become weary of the constant attention. It becomes emotionally draining, and I just want someone else to step up. 

There is little talk between my peers and I of how I’m doing outside of school (other than my mentors and femtors). In all honesty, it makes me upset, but it’s still motivating in a way. I will always be committed to the advancement of Black people, even if individuals forget that I am just like them. I know I’m not alone in this, and other Black student leaders share my same feelings.  

I’m tired of the people expecting me to outlash in these townhall meetings with officials of the university. I’m tired of begging these people to bring more Black students to this campus. 

Therefore, moving forward in the future I hope to change the pressure that weighs on Black student leaders. One day I will fade back into my community. However, I’ll still be available and dependable to younger Black Student Leaders for advice on anything. Hopefully they will recognize me helping the younger generation of Black Students — only for them to then do the same over time. 

The spotlight has been on me from my first arrival on campus. I have yet to take my foot off the gas pedal. There comes a time that people must refuel and take a break. This doesn’t mean I’m leaving leadership on campus for good. However, sometimes, I just have to take a step back and let others step up. 

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