In a field that sees less than 2% of African American women, eight black women will make history as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas in May.
It truly is the ultimate display of “teamwork makes the dream work.”
Known as “The Great Eight,” these ladies — Nadrea Njoku, Jasmine Haywood, Johari Shuck, Tiffany Kyser, Demetrees Hutchins, Jada Phelps-Moultrie, Juhanna Rogers and Shannon McCullough — began their respective doctoral programs at the Indiana University School of Education oftentimes being only person of color in their classes. Soon, they realized how few women of color had come before them at the school.
“We understood very early on that we had a distinction, a commonality, a thread between all of us and so we began to meet as a group,” said PhD candidate Nadrea Njoku.
“This is truly a sign of Black women sticking together, sticking up for one another and helping each other that you don’t see in mainstream media,” says Tracy, an undergrad freshman at Indiana University. “It’s great!”
The doctoral candidates uplifted and encouraged one another semester after semester and year after year, using the common thread they shared to finish and graduate.
“We often deal with this idea that we always have to do more,” Haywood told Fox 59. “And our collective black female community, here, we were able to tell each other you’re enough.”
This will be the first time the university has ever had so many black woman complete a doctoral program at one time. Shuck told the news outlet that the group leaned on each other for emotional support, especially when the stress and anxiety of being one of the only persons of color weighed heavy.
“When you’re the only or one of a handful of people of color in the classroom particularly when it comes to…
…speaking about issues of race,” Haywood said. “You can often become the token or spokesperson.”
The group said they want their work to inspire other women of color to thrive.
“If we get more images of showing us in these positive lights,” Hutchins said, “then we can truly say this is nothing special because it happens all the time. So until we get to that point we’ll be the great eight and we’ll shine that light on it.”
After graduating in May, the women will defend their dissertations this summer. They will also meet with school leadership to talk about ways to make their program more inclusive.
“Standing in solidarity with each other is great, but we’re also sharing the space with other historically marginalized groups in the university.”
Congrats to all Black women graduating this year! We see you! We salute you! We love you!
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