Young Men of Color strive for ‘barbershop-atmosphere’ on campus

By Elaine Ezekiel News Editor

There is a new student group on campus meant to provide a social safe haven for male students of color. Rob Relief III ‘13 and Erran Briggs ‘14 created Young Men of Color out of a group that had already been engaging in informal “seminars” during meals in the cafeteria.

“We would just gravitate towards each other ‘cause we were talking about topics that not everybody talks about,” said Relief.

Relief says these seminars, like the new group, served as a forum for the mostly African-American male students to ask for advice and share what was on their minds.

He says topics range from whatever happened this week, to relationship advice, to paper ideas for class, to issues in the news, to practical advice, like where can someone get their hair cut.

Relief says this group is different from the Black Student Organization, of which he is also a member.

“I feel like what we’re doing it different, because we’re trying to bring that sense of unity and a comfort zone, and BSO is more about awareness,” he said.

Relief says the general rules for the group are confidentiality and honesty.

“Just being a black man on campus is kinda hard, because you tend to look for things that you can’t find on a white campus,” he said. “It’s that barbershop-type atmosphere for us, where you can sit down and talk about whatever you want.”

Briggs says coming to K isn’t always a smooth transition for the dozen-or-so people in the group. He says when he came to K, he felt out of place.

“You feel like there’s nobody to help you if you can’t do your homework, if you don’t have those initial relationships,” he said.

After years of informal meetings, Relief and Briggs decided to apply for Student Group status with their advisor, Associate Dean of Students Karen Joshua-Wathel. Briggs says this move might help struggling first-years perform better academically.

“We felt like if we could link up with incoming freshmen and use the relationships that we have and our own experiences of how we’ve been successful here, we can stop it before it starts– before it becomes a problem,” said Briggs.

Despite the group’s name, the founders say white and female students have already attended at least one meeting, and Relief is careful to point out “color” has wide implications.

“Not just black guys, but all guy from urban areas and everybody of color,” he said. “Basically, if you feel like you fit into this group, it’s the group for you.”

Young Men of Color has already met three times on Mondays or Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in Hicks 110.

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