Engaging the Black Diaspora
The RISD Black Alumni affinity group is building community and working to involve more alumni and students.
Vincent Braithwaite 05 ID, Tiffany Cooper 12 FAV and Karen Harris 86 IL, P 13, P 18 saw a need for a strong link between the Black students at RISD and the Black alumni who shared similar experiences on campus. The RISD Black Alumni affinity group formed to develop new opportunities to connect.
“The political and social climate has led to an increased awareness of how members of the Black diaspora were being treated. Student activists were making their voices heard, and we wanted to create a bridge for those students who felt isolated,” says Braithwaite.
“Starting this group also became an extension of the work that was occurring on campus, such as Project Thrive,” says Harris. Project Thrive is a multiyear student support and learning community designed for RISD students whose parents did not attend or did not complete college.
“Because we started during the peak of the pandemic, our inception was virtual. If anything, the pandemic helped to create us,” says Cooper. “It allowed us to reach beyond any one place and span the globe to connect with our Black alumni. Our virtual presence became an equalizer. Although we are offering most of our programs online now, that doesn’t mean that all of our events will be virtual. We intend to have more in-person events in the future.” The group has been offering What Are We Up To? panel discussions online. The most recent was held on September 16, 2021, and another in the series is planned for April 14, 2022.
Braithwaite, Cooper and Harris are committed to working as a team and welcome others to get involved. “I am currently the chair of the group, which means that I help to facilitate the flow of our scheduled meetings and serve as the host for our biannual events,” says Braithwaite. “Other than that, most of what we do is operated as a collective.”
One of the new initiatives they look forward to launching in the future is a mentoring initiative. “We are in the very early stages of thinking about mentoring,” says Harris. “We first want to build our community by continuing to connect with RISD’s Black students and alumni. Doing so is crucial before we begin to ask people to dedicate their time and resources to mentorship.” “We are always looking for additional leaders and panel speakers to help us grow the community,” adds Cooper. “You also can join the RISD Black Alumni group on LinkedIn to connect with other members of the community, and we are in the RISD Network directory.