On Tuesday, Sept. 20th and Friday, Sept 23rd, 2022, the African American Cultural Center (AACC) held two programs for Healthy Campus Week. Both programs were interactive mini-events held on Witherspoon field, crafted to uplift Black students while shedding light on the importance of students managing their mental health and being aware of campus resources.
On Tuesday, Korie Roane, a AACC intern and Social Work Grad Student, hosted Don’t Bottle Things Up, with the assistance of volunteer Richard McNeill, a third-year Psychology major. On a tarp-shaded table in the middle of Witherspoon field was a QR Code. There were Coke bottles and nine cups each with a couple of Mentos inside. Each one of the cups had a different stressor written on it. The nine stressors selected were chosen based on the shared reality of many Black and Brown students’ college experience. The nine being: stigmas, mental health, relationships, family, racial tension, social life, environment, self-esteem and course load.
Roane engaged with participants and asked them to choose three Mentos from the cups they could relate to. Some students chose their Mentos with thorough consideration, while others immediately knew which ones they’d grab. She’d followed this by asking them to open a coke bottle, place the mentos in and then try to cover it as fast as they could in the open grass. Participants directed the bottle away and prepared themselves for what they knew was going to happen.
“It was an accurate representation of how I’ve been feeling this past couple of weeks and it was a fun way to visualize it”, said Jakobi Blackmon, a first-year student studying Art and Design, when asked about the experience.
Some of the bottles didn’t explode but still poured themselves out. However, the symbolism was still clear. After laughing and helping clean up, Roane explained how bottling things up when juggling different stressors can make people explode. She asked them how they currently manage their stress. She also informed them about available Mental health resources on campus.
“We’re at a Predominantly White Institution, so It’s really important to have spaces where we look like each other and that we can relate to each other… All this to stay connected, especially with people who have the same goals as us, same identities as us and so I hope that the linktree can help with you starting things. So the moral of the story is… Don’t bottle things up!” said Roane.
On the 23rd, in front of Witherspoon, Roane had a stack of sticky notes and a whiteboard decorated with encouraging stickers and the words “Come say something nice about yourself” written in the middle. She enthusiastically asked passersby if they had a moment to write something nice about themselves.
Every few minutes, a student or staff member would take a moment from their walk, think for a few seconds, take a sticky note, write something down, then stick it onto the board. Some continued to their destination right after, some took an extra moment to read what others wrote on the sticky notes and some stayed to chat to Roane about the board.
By the afternoon, the originally blank board was fully decorated with dozens of colorful positive sticky notes. Every note affirmed a trait someone saw within themselves. A few examples of the many are: “I am a good friend,” “I love my hair,” “I never give up,” “My heart holds kindness” and “I am smart and accomplished.”
It is important for our campus to have resources, hold space and encourage its marginalized students to value, manage and reflect on their mental health. It’s evident students and staff are trying their absolute best to make this a reality to help place focus on the well-being of the Black community on campus.