Cover Story: Black History Month

Author: Seepersad, Kayla and Other Contributors

Artwork of three Black women."
Kiaya Jones

A key component of any Black college student’s live is the organizations they are part of. At a PWI (primarily white institution), finding community is more than connecting with classmates and your hall community. Student organizations provide spaces of comfort, support, and community. At Notre Dame, over twelve student organizations are focused on supporting a multi-faceted Black experience. The African Students Association (ASA) is a beloved club that brings life to the African experience through events like Africa on the Quad and their annual Met Gala, which showcase African culture and creativity. Black@ND is known for its whirling conversations about popular Black culture and topics that alumni and students find relevant. Students interested in business can connect with the Black Business Association (BBAND) to learn the ins and outs of business and create a strong community in a field lacking representation. Creatives find themselves drawn to the appeal of the Black Cultural Arts Club (BCAC) where their talent across various mediums is showcased. BSA (Black Student Association) is one of the first touchpoints for students when they arrive on campus. As a club, they seek to ensure a harmonious social environment for Black students on campus. Caribsa (Caribbean Student Association) reminds us about the taste of islands and the rich history of all Caribbean people. Many of seen Dance Africa perform and they charm audiences with creative and fun choreography. Students in STEM are no strangers to NSBE (National Society for Black Engineers) are they have a diverse local and national presence in the pursuit of engineering. When it comes to sisterhood and brotherhood, Shades and Warbruda are essential to the development of close relationships on campus. Shades, the Black women’s sisterhood, has open conversations about being a Black woman on campus. Warbruda, the Black men’s brotherhood does the same with their members. Finally, no other club will bring the church down like Voices of Faith. Their soulful presence blended with Black tradition, provides a rich expression of faith on campus.

Black undergraduates and graduate students have diverse experiences regardless of their racial similarities. There is no one way to be Black at Notre Dame, but it is a reminder that each expression of our identities is worthy and beautiful. Black experiences matter.


With the help of Luzolo Matundu and Kayla Seepersad, Scholastic asked Black students on campus to share as much or as little as they wanted with the question:

“What does being Black at Notre Dame mean to you?”


Taylor R. Nicoletti, PsyD, HSPP, Faculty/Staff

Being Black at ND means hope, resistance, and liberation. Being the first Black woman in the department of psychology means I have the opportunity to hold and co-create spaces for others who have been either unseen or shut out of the academy. Like Mother Toni Morrison said, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” Being Black at ND means being brilliant and free... and empowering my students and community to do the same.

Austin, Grad Student

Being Black at Notre Dame does not mean much to me. I simply notice how much of a minority black students are, and it makes me question things. In my class of 80, I am the only black American female and there is one other black American male. Kind of like they met the quota. Most black grad students I meet are African international students. Sitting in the student center for about a hour, I saw about 5 black students in the sea of other students. These observations make me wonder if black students are just not applying to Notre Dame. If so, did that make my application more appealing? I understand ND needs to meet a quota of 80% Catholic students, but black Catholics exist. Once I met a black Catholic undergrad, and she told me about instances of racism that occurs at Notre Dame. The undergrad experience is understandably different from the grad experience at ND. But as one of my African cohorts said, “I have never felt more black in my life”. I laughed at this, thinking from where he was coming from, that makes sense. I also realized that I don’t often think about my experiences in terms of my blackness because I am so used to being one of the onlys in the sea of many.

I am beyond proud to attend Notre Dame for its prestige and was hoping to be apart of its famed community. However, it feels similar to my previous experiences in predominantly white spaces, where no matter how much you want to and try, you just don’t fit in and can’t make genuine connections with the others.

Azariah (Sassy) Fleming, Junior

Being Black at Notre Dame is kind of an interesting experience. As a Black person at a PWI, you clearly notice that the environment was not built for people that look like you and you will definitely encounter individuals who will reinforce that ideology. Also, you will come across so many people who are not accustomed to being around a lot of Black people (sometimes other Black people) and creates a sense of uncomfortability. However, there are experiences within the Black community that are moments to be proud of and allows me to (sometimes) feel a sense of unity. The BSA events/shades events, the Black excellence dinner, parties within the Black community, the support from your friends (especially on bad days), and the Africana Studies department. I know for myself that there were moments where I did not speak to a single person in a day (I don’t interact with a lot of people outside of the Black community) or where I didn’t feel confident in my place her. But the seeing my friends after a long day and understanding my strengths within my major (AFST) honestly reminded me of what it feels to be a proud Black woman at Notre Dame.

Isaiah Hall, Junior

It means being proud of my Blackness and never changing who I am to appease others.

Passion H., First-year

Being Black at Notre Dame means that I am one step closer to breaking generational curses and barriers.

Zaria Smith, Sophomore

Notre Dame has a long rich history so as a black student it means to strive towards excellence so that you can contribute to the history and culture of ND. After your matriculation through ND you want to leave a mark on the world. In which the world would recognize a great African American ND alumni.

Tahira-Jahnai Vera, Senior

Being black in a space that has a limit on others that look like me, or may have an understanding of my own experience, makes me proud to represent that part of my identity! It makes it all the more important to create a safe space where each and every narrative can be expressed and respected without judgment. I take pride in being my unique and authentic self everywhere I go, and Notre Dame is no exception to that rule my heart has always followed!

Timothy Gachuki, First-year

Being black at Notre Dame means acceptance into a tight knit community that prioritizes being there for each other. Being black at Notre Dame means being confused everytime you see a black you haven’t seen before. Being black at Notre Dame means walking into the dining hall and seeing nobody that looks like you.

Manouny Ouatara, First-year

Being black at Notre Dame means finding organization such as BBand, ASA, BSA, and many others and making connections, and being okay with taking up spaces in areas where not many look like me.

Aaliah Magee, First-year

Being Black at Notre Dame means embracing my identity while navigating spaces where I may be underrepresented. It means drawing strength from my heritage and culture while striving for excellence in academia, athletics, and beyond. It means being a trailblazer, breaking barriers, and inspiring others who may follow in my footsteps. It means finding community and support among fellow students, faculty, and staff who understand and celebrate the richness of diversity. Ultimately, being Black at Notre Dame means contributing my unique perspective and talents to create a more inclusive and equitable campus environment for all.

Rev Paulinus I. Odozor, C.S.Sp[., Faculty/Staff

Being black for me means being a human being like everyone else. The particularity of my skin color does not make me inferior or superior to anyone even though it also contributes to my experience of my personhood.

Thalia Grant, Senior

Being black at Notre Dame means being the realization of my Father’s dream to be at such an esteemed Institution.

Edgardo Rodriguez, First-year

Being black at Notre Dame means a lot to me! I feel that I am a part of a special community. A welcoming community that always extends a helping hand and makes me feel at home.

Kristian Lax-Walker, Faculty/Staff

During my almost seventeen years of working at Notre Dame, I have had the privilege of working under three wonderful Priests. As a first-generation African-American college student, I started as a temporary staff member and completed my undergraduate degree at nearby IU South Bend. As I became a part of the Notre Dame community, I continued to grow personally and professionally in my higher education journey. With the support of leadership and numerous mentors, I discovered my passion for student development and will complete my doctorate in Leadership in Academic Advising in 2026.

I have met many amazing people over the years who live the universities mission and display the principles of Catholic social teaching with open hearts. Throughout my journey at Notre Dame, I have found that friendships are inevitable, regardless of where I go on campus. Belonging and community have played critical roles in my Notre Dame experience. Whether I was working for the Ford Family Program in the early years of my career or in the First-Year of Studies, my growth at Notre Dame was not a solitary journey but the result of shared experiences with colleagues who wanted to see me flourish. In my current role as a Pre-Health Advisor in the College of Science, this same experience has been evident. Helping students embrace their unique journeys gives even more meaning to my work. Being Black at Notre Dame means being proud of who I am and my own unique journey. I was born in South Bend, IN and although I always had dreams of working in higher education, I never imagined as a young Black girl who grew up on the east side of South Bend, I would one day be a faculty member at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. I am proud to be a part of this community and privileged to be able to help students discover the greatness they bring to this university.

Deacon Mel, Faculty/Staff

Being Black at Notre Dame means being in a space that constantly requires me to think about both my Blackness and my sense of otherness. W.E.B. Dubois in “The Souls of Black Folk” spoke about the “twoness” he felt as a Negro and an American. He couldn’t help but be both, but Society wanted him to choose. It took “dogged strength” to keep from being “torn asunder.”

Even as a lifelong Catholic, I have to be intentional and at times subversive in order to pray and worship my God in a way that resonates with my own cultural sensibilities. While I always feel God’s presence at the Basilica, even if the language of choice is Latin, sometimes, I choose to be in Voices of Faith and I feel God’s presence in a different way.

Yet being Black at Notre Dame was the catalyst for me to confront my Blackness over time -- to walk with others on a similar journey and to collective learn that we are not just Black but that we have a rich history and heritage of which to be proud -- in Society and, indeed, at Notre Dame too. We have had to teach ourselves when well-meaning others didn’t know how. Now I know that we have a way of being, a sense of faith in the midst of struggle, a unique spirituality, that enriches Notre Dame and Society at large. Now I understand that we not only belong, but our presence is actually essential to the mission and identity of ND; because Notre Dame is more truly “catholic” (which means universal) when we are present than when we are not.

Kayla Seepersad, Senior

At first, I hated it. I hated how much I knew my Blackness. I was deeply aware of how othering my race was. I could feel every stare and cringe. I was also one of the first Black people several of my classmates have ever seen. I didn't like the weight of that because I didn't like how they treated me. I wanted to be the opposite of everything they expected. I probably wasn't. It felt like my Blackness highlighted everything that was wrong with me. I was loud, cold, ambitious, a woman, too much -1 always felt like too much. Being Black meant that I ran to the safety of those who looked like me because at least we had one major factor in common. Truthfully, I still didn’t fit. Back in NYC, people were different but there was something underneath that kept us all going. I didn’t feel that here. For the first time, I felt different than those who looked like me. I didn’t know what to do with that feeling.

Being Black means that your peers think you’re stupid or that you should be a clown. It means being ignored in the classroom, but also “let’s take a picture”. It means I am fun and interesting, but only in small doses. It means that my identities are entwined. I am not “Black” and then “woman”. I am a Black woman. It means speaking all languages, even those spoken in silence. It’s assuming I know so and so or, even worse, I look like so and so.

That’s not to say my experiences have been completely negative. My time here has completely challenged my perception of myself and others. We are not many, but it gave me a chance to see beyond my city. I have opportunities here that would have never been possible if I stayed. I know my positionality and adamantly refuse to be only the things relegated to us. I am everything. I can’t believe it’s taken me four years to show up this way.