The Roots of Change

Inequality and injustice are everywhere and while the world isn’t the utopia her younger self hoped for, NUBAC co-founder Khailah Griffin challenges everyone to help create a better world for you, your community, and the next generation

By Khailah N-R Griffin

This is part of the “My Story Matters” collection. To read the other stories click on the links below.

“On the Path to Allah” by Adama Kaba – Men’s Soccer
“Running Out in the Open” by Luke Novak – Cross Country
“The Box Labeled “Other”” by Sammi Pak – Field Hockey

“You realize you only got this because you’re a black woman?”

“You’re pretty, not loud… not like the rest of them.”

“That hair is unprofessional.”

There’s two sides of the coin. You can either only imagine what this feels like, or this is a realistic world that you live in. 

Growing up, I saw the world and all the different cultures it has to offer pretty consistently from a young age. Being in an Air Force family I experienced cultures in places as different as Colorado, Georgia, Guam, Virginia, Japan, and more. Seeing the world outside of me and my family instituted a certain level of appreciation for other cultures and their differences, and I was better equipped for the life that would come ahead. This also however shielded me from an ignorant world that I would soon come face to face with and ultimately stand up to.

After the tragic racial/social events and justice protests that followed this summer I sat down, reflected, and thought about the behaviors of the people in our society. The questions my younger self thought of when I first faced the realities that those prior utopian expectations didn’t match, came racing through my head. “Why is there inequality and injustice? Why is there so much division and difficulty eradicating it? And most importantly, “what can I do that will actually make a change?”

The black experience – and the black woman experience even more so – can come with an unfortunate series of various invalid negative stereotypes and challenges, that oftentimes I face without even realizing it. There have been moments where I felt broken, hands tied, and numb to not only the horrific events, but the day to day struggles of people who identify as black. 

“You talk like a white person.” …to think speaking properly equates to whiteness, to insinuate that my skin color would be the sole reason behind any success or accolade and not my actual achievements, to state that being “pretty” and black is unusual, to call out a person’s natural hair as a sign of unprofessionalism. This is the unacceptable consequence of a society built off the roots of prejudice and racism. To watch a country that espouses “justice for all” desensitize murder on our televisions, social media, and through  word of mouth… it angered me, but it also empowered me. The moment I saw a child no older than five years old look at me to mimic the words I spoke as I chanted the names of the innocent lives lost, the moment when I witnessed a family join me in raising their hands to the sky during a protest, I realized two things: the world is watching and I can make a difference. 

Being a student-athlete has given me a strong support system and platform to use my voice. Several student-athletes and I came together to create the Northeastern University Black Athletic Caucus (NUBAC) with the mission to “represent the voice, while simultaneously bringing exposure to, the Black Athletic Community at Northeastern University.” With NUBAC, we are able to hold our institutions accountable, provide a safe space, and to make things uncomfortable until they are right. We as human beings have to do better and this has to be personal for every single one of us. We need to create a world in which we understand one another and live through the lens of right vs. wrong rather than “political” beliefs. We as a country have to take accountability for and change the roots of racially embedded fabrics that still affect the very systems that are supposed to improve our lives each and every day. Until every single soul personally feels enraged by the agony of injustice, we will have a long way to go.

Athletics is one community I utilize to make change but I, like many of you, belong to a multitude of communities/organizations. In each and every space I make sure my voice is heard whether it be in academia, a professional space, or in my social life. As we continue on the progression for a better tomorrow, I challenge you to look into yourself and be that change in your family, in your circle of friends, and in your institutions. Be empowered to create the world that I grew up envisioning – a blend of all cultures, and having an appreciation for all our differences. We have one life, what’s holding you back from making it anything but extraordinary for yourself, for your community, for all people of the world? Change starts at home, it starts with you, and it surely starts with me.