The brains behind the Virtual Black Leadership Panel

The future of Black Leaders and Mentors Club

The Jones Black Coalition hosted a virtual Black leadership panel on Feb. 16. 

The primary focus of the virtual panel was for Black people in power to discuss their methods of success and diversity in the workplace.

“We wanted to give a chance to students to have people who look like them come in and give them the opportunity to ask [the speakers] questions,” said co-president of Black Leaders and Mentors Club, Janiel Laboy ‘22.    

An essential aspect of the panel was to allow students to hear from a variety of speakers across many career paths. Kenya Young – Executive Producer of Morning Edition at NPR; T.J. Breeden – founder of eMerging Entrepreneurs; Cristel Turner – Sr. Director of Brand Communications at U.S. Cellular; Raychel Barfield – VP of Virtual Events PGi; and Braxton Simpson – senior at Tennessee State University and a Leadership Fellow were the speakers of the evening.  

“We have a lot of technologically inclined people in our panel, all who may be doing stocks or software and computer editing,” said Laboy. 

Breeden discussed the idea of staying true to oneself and trusting the process to success throughout the panel.

“I see a lot of young people that I work with experience this; they’re trying to find their voice, and then a consequence of that is sometimes grouping yourselves or allowing yourself to be grouped in spaces where your individuality gets lost,” said Breeden.  

Another important topic discussed in the panel was navigating different careers as a student of color.

“I feel like a lot of the times Black students and Black young adults can be dismissed from different fields, and feel like they can’t obtain different roles when in actuality these roles are out there,” said Cole Francis ‘22 co-president of Black Leaders and Mentors Club.  

The panel aims to give Black students and other students of color outlets to feel included and promote students’ desire to obtain more aid in overall success. 

“I feel like a lot of these spaces aren’t as inclusive as we want them to be, so having something specifically towards Black students really helps with just making sure that they know that somebody is looking out for them, and somebody wants them to succeed,” said Francis.

Laboy and Francis took over as co-presidents of the Black Students and Mentors Club this year and have dedicated themselves to re-structuring their club and being proactive with their outreach both to other clubs within Jones and beyond. 

Additionally, the Black Students and Mentor’s club has added an Outreach Manager to provide additional support to the club and started working on projects such as the “Being Black at Jones” letter as early as the summer. 

 “I think it’s been very instrumental for getting recognition for Black students at Jones because when we united it was just a lot easier to put weight and power behind what we were doing,” said Laboy. 

Looking into the future, Laboy and Francis are preparing for what the Black Students and Mentors Club will look like without them. 

“We need to make sure that we can make this club sustainable even after we graduate,” said Laboy.