Dynamic Duo on Leadership, Solidarity and Community, and Black History Month
Meet the cousin duo bridging the gap between RWU Law and undergrad students to create unity that better serves the Black community at Roger Williams University. The Providence, RI, natives share their experiences as leaders navigating adversities, black solidarity and excellence, and the importance of Black History Month
Bristol, R.I. – Bre’Anna Metts-Nixon is in her third year at RWU School of Law. She’s also president of the Black Law Student Association. From the beginning of her academic career at RWU - she graduated undergrad here in 2013 - she took on the challenge of being a catalyst for change.
Inspired by Metts-Nixon’s strength, her younger cousin Zayila Howie is following in her footsteps. Now a sophomore at RWU, Howie is president of the Africana Student Coalition (ASC) and hopes to share her aspirations with other students of color.
In this Q&A, learn how Metts-Nixon and Howie are upholding their missions through leadership and collaboration.
Metts-Nixon has been building bridges between BLSA and undergraduate student groups at RWU toward creating a broader sense of community, equity and engagement among students of color. How did the partnerships with undergrad clubs come about?
Bre': It was an organic link! I have certain connections because I am an undergrad alum. My cousin, Zayila was expressing the same issues that I had as an undergrad. If we work together and bridge that gap, we can help some of these issues. Our purpose for co-sponsoring with ASC, Multicultural Student Union, and The Barbershop is that we felt there needed to be a connection between the law school and the undergrad students of color.
Zayila: As President of Africana Student Coalition (ASC), an RA and a Diversity Admissions board member, I felt that connecting my undergrad community with the law school would have a great benefit.
What changes have you made progress with as President of BLSA?
Bre’: The prior executive board did a phenomenal job of making BLSA a solid club with a line-up of great events. This year, we’re focused on what students need to be successful in every aspect. We found that BLSA was becoming a group similar to the multicultural student union. BLSA’s mission is different than a group that deals with multiple different backgrounds and ethnicities and races. We have a specific goal, a specific group and a specific target. We do have allies that are a part of our group as well which is beautiful, but we have to make sure that we’re upholding what it is that our students of color need.
With knowing that, this year we’ve made progress with connecting our students with resources and opportunities. I have a fantastic e-board – this group allowed for us to develop a strong bond and a synergy. It is also a great reminder that regardless of the size you can produce great work and contribute to widespread change.
What feedback have you received from other students about BLSA’s transition and the forces of expanding this community to undergrad?
Bre’:I try not to seek feedback because I don’t want to assume that things are going great. Instead of thinking that what I’m doing is enough, I keep pushing and have that mindset of “there’s always more work to be done.” I believe we are making a statement this year. Other groups have reached out to find out what we’re doing different and how they could improve their groups.
Zayila: It has helped my peers a lot. BLSA tries to make us feel more comfortable in these spaces. Just knowing that the law students and undergrad can come together is phenomenal.
What motivates you to do this work?
Bre’: I’m passionate about creating space for Black students to share their stories because it transforms the students’ experience by fostering empathy, enhancing equity and increasing engagement and reflection. When you are one out of four or the only person of color in the room, it’s hard to feel safe – safe in expressing your ideas, safe in just feeling like you can be yourself and you’re not hiding or fearful of judgement. Our focus is making sure that our students know they’re capable and they’re here for a reason.
Zayila: I am so proud of the work I’ve been doing here at Roger and am excited to continue to work within the pursuit of social and educational equity for our students. Bre’ is my role model and she inspired me to come to Roger Williams. Since I was seven years old I’ve looked up to her and admired her strength, resilience and professionalism. Her leadership and involvement inspire me to be that role model for other students of color.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Bre’: It’s a great moment of celebration for black excellence! We are a force. It’s important to celebrate our history, present achievements, and future endeavors.
“We’re stronger together. We’re stronger together because together we’re able to push one agenda and reach a goal. Our voice and impact will be greater. Anyone that’s within our community at Roger Williams University can make a huge impact if we work together,” Metts-Nixon said.
To celebrate the close of Black History Month, the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), alumni and supporters dressed in all black and gathered at Rhode Island State House to take a solidarity photo. To read more and view the photos visit here.