My Existence as a Black Woman in Leadership

The ideas and viewpoints expressed in the posts on the Ideas and Creations blog are solely the view of the author(s). Luther College's mission statement calls us to "embrace diversity and challenge one another to learn in community," and to be "enlivened and transformed by encounters with one another, by the exchange of ideas, and by the life of faith and learning." Alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends of the college are encouraged to express their views, model "good disagreement" and engage in respectful dialogue.

During my first semester at Luther, I promised myself that I would not get involved in any extracurricular activities. Coming from high school where I was actively engaged in student organizations, I wanted to take a break and enjoy college life. This dream went down the drain in my second semester when I participated in an election for an opening on an organization’s executive board. At this point I realized, there was no possible way for me to enjoy my time at Luther without being involved.

Luther College provides an abundance of opportunities for students to get involved in the overall progress of the campus community. I have had the honor of serving on multiple executive boards during my three years at Luther, including the International Student and Allies Association executive board as social media coordinator and then president. I currently serve on the Black Student Union (BSU) executive board as the social media coordinator and on the Beta Theta Omega executive board as the secretary. Through my position on the BSU executive board, and in combination with other roles that I have held, I’ve developed a new perspective on various aspects of my life.

As the social media coordinator for the BSU executive board, I use my creative and communication skills to communicate the various plans of the organization to its members. In this role, I enjoy using my skills to promote an activity that I know contributes to a community on campus. Even though I have enjoyed this role in every capacity, it has been accompanied with a plethora of challenges.

The challenges I have faced while holding leadership positions on campus have for a large part existed because of my identity as a Black woman. I am constantly faced with the task of having to prove to people that I am capable of fulfilling my responsibilities; whether it’s delivering an important message or designing a flyer that communicates the details of an event. I persistently find myself in a battle to prove my worth and that I belong. Even in the way I communicate with other team members, I have to be cautious. My communication style cannot take the same form of many others who are not Black women. This is for fear of being labelled with a harmful stereotype that has plagued Black women for years.

The challenges that I face in these positions are something that I do not believe I will ever get used to. The fact that my gender and race continually place me in uncomfortable situations is disheartening and something that no person should ever accept. I have been able to overcome these challenges in my own unique way. First, I identified that I belong in the space which I fill. I deserve to exist in positions that I wish to occupy because all of us are capable of whatever we decide to do. Second, I remember daily that my existence in relation to my race and gender place me in a unique position that does not give me the opportunity to fumble like others might be able to. Last, I ensure that I perform exceptionally in every task I am assigned as a reminder to others that my identity does not define my ability.

A driving force behind why I continue to take on leadership positions is the fact that there are not enough women of color on our campus in leadership roles. My existence in such positions gives me the chance to ensure that the community of women of color on campus have a voice and are accurately represented where important decisions are being made about their lives on campus. I always hope that my contributions on campus help to inspire other women to take on leadership positions. And I also hope that the leadership, communication, and work ethic skills which I am acquiring during my time here at Luther serve me in the future.

Ursula Damtse '22

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  • April 30 2021 at 5:37 am
    Francis Brown

    Discrimination and stereotyping are moral degrading attitudes that humanity has to desist from. God created us all equally and requires we accomplish His will to honor Him without prejudices. 

    Thanks for sharing. 

  • April 30 2021 at 7:17 pm
    George Damtse

    Great piece!Hoping this inspire most women of colour on your campus to be bold like you did and take more roles. 

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