Eight women sat around a table at Bracken Library in August 2020 with the same thought in mind: the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot by police, wasn’t as respected as others, and there was no space on Ball State University’s campus to talk about what was happening in the Black community.
That day, the eight founders: Star Gooch, Olamide Awoola, Makayla Atwater, Jordyn Owens, Kye Wilson, Trinity Mitchell, Jaylyn McDonald and Francesca Fontus, decided to make that space by creating the Black Women’s Voices organization, official in February 2021.
According to Ball State fourth-year student, co-founder and president of Black Women’s Voices Star Gooch, the organization is specifically open to Black women who can become members of the organization, but anyone is welcome to their bi-weekly body meetings.
“What brings people together is a space for Black women to not only get together and talk about how we feel but being able to talk with like-minded people on subjects,” Ball State fourth-year student and co-founder of Black Women’s Voices Trinity Mitchell said.
The organization puts on events throughout the fall and spring semesters. The fall events are focused around women empowerment like pop-up shops and classes on how to build financial wellness.
The spring events are more centered around women’s week in March, Women’s History Month, and the month of April. Their annual event titled Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is one of their biggest events that kicked off this year's women’s week.
“We wanted to bring awareness to women, like Breonna, or other women who not just die from police brutality but all violent crimes that women have faced,” Gooch said. “We wanted to give them a platform to be able to walk in their names and be able to understand the weight of what is happening to women in our community.”
The organization gives back to the community in many different ways from gathering money through smaller events to donating to women’s shelters or a sanitary products drive in April.
According to Gooch, the organization reached a goal of $500 and donated to five women’s shelters last year during their spring events, and this year, they are donating to three women’s shelters and hope to go past the goal of $500.
Black Women’s Voices have partnered with women’s shelters like A Better Way, YWCA and also on campus with Cardinal Kitchen, according to Mitchell.
“I’ve always been interested in service, and it’s been a passion of mine to bring good deeds to my community,” Mitchell said. “I realized that’s something that needed to be a part of this group.”
According to Mitchell, around 75 people from all over Ball State’s campus came to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes March 18. Anyone from fraternity and sorority life to just individual’s can donate and walk the mile in the event.
“It’s even an option for men to wear heels and feel how it is to walk in women’s shoes,” Ball State third-year student and member of Black Women’s Voices Jaeda Dixson said.
Black Women’s Voices is an organization that welcomes a community that doesn’t have a safe space to talk but also is an organization that supports other organizations locally.
“[The organization] supports other Black organizations, promotes Black owned businesses, even on campus like the girls who do nails and hair,” Dixson said.
While the organization was created to give space to Black women in the community, they support and give space for everyone. According to Dixson, it has opened the door for women to help women and give them more confidence.
“I was placed in leadership roles before, but it was never anything in this capacity where I am constantly going to events and helping my girls get ready for professional development and essentially putting them in a place to win,” Gooch said.
According to Dixson, the organization is “women supporting women,” and they raise awareness about women’s issues year round instead of just during Women’s History Month.
“It’s a really nice place at Ball State for specifically Black women to gather and feel safe and share their voices,” she said. “Even though we make up less than eight percent of the population on campus, we still have a place where we feel like we belong.”
Contact Mya Cataline with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @mcata_20