Georgetown University has a longstanding tradition as one of the elite universities in the country. Located in Washington DC’s Georgetown neighborhood, Georgetown University, referred to as Georgetown, is ranked as the 20th best school in the country, according to rankings by U.S. News. Despite educating almost 18,000 students; only 6 percent of which are black or African American. These students understand the beauty and pain of being a black face in a white place.
“A lot of people are very affluent. Class is a big divider in Georgetown. I went to a private Catholic high school back home, so Georgetown is very similar,” said Esther Owolabi, a 2015 graduate of Georgetown University’s Georgetown College where she majored in Government. Owolabi attended Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL. Coincidentally, only 6 percent of Fenwick’s student population is black; similar to Georgetown’s.
Owolabi sensed a disconnect between the black students and their white classmates. During her time at Georgetown, Owolabi worked on the Last Campaign for Reform, a campaign that sought to add a diversity requirement to the core curriculum for all Georgetown students. This requirement would allow and encourage discussion amongst the students about topics such as racism, gender and gender ability, and ableism. Georgetown’s Main Campus Executive Faculty voted in favor of the requirement in April 2015. “After years of tireless student activism, I am proud of Georgetown for taking this monumental step to creating a more inclusive and aware community,” said Owolabi in an April 2015 article in Georgetown’s student newspaper, The Hoya.
The demographics at Georgetown aren’t familiar territory for everyone. “It was definitely a culture shock. I went to a predominately-black and Hispanic high school,” said Georgino Joasil, third-year student at Georgetown where he is pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Justice and Peace studies. Joasil, of Long Island, NY, is the son of Haitian immigrants. “I’m thankful for it, because I had not been in such environments,” said Joasil.
On campus, Joasil serves as Vice President of the Caribbean Culture Circle, a club that provides Caribbean events to its students. In the spring of 2016, Joasil became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, Nu Beta Chapter. Joasil also serves as a resident of The Black House, a safe-space that fosters community for students of color.
“I’m very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I wouldn’t say I would change this or that, because I don’t know where it would’ve put me,” Joasil continued. “With the programs and organizations I’m a part of, I was able to find my blackness in a space that wasn’t geared toward it,” said Joasil.
Though they may be outnumbered by their white counterparts, black students at Georgetown do have fostering environments available to them. Georgetown is home to The Center for Multicultural Equity & Access (CMEA), an on-campus support system for students of color. CMEA provides mentoring and academic support for Georgetown’s minority students. You can read more about CMEA and all its programs and services here.