On Jan. 25, The University of Southern Mississippi officially approved the Queens Uplifted organization, helmed by President Imani Harris and Vice President Maya Rex.
The organization’s Facebook page describes it as “dedicated to exploring womanhood and the intersections at which it exists in black women.”
Rex defined the mission statement of the group as “black women existing unapologetically, creating safe spaces and supporting each other in every facet of their lives.”
Harris said she hopes to “create a better community of black women on campus.”
Rex said she looks forward to “creating spaces of inclusion and understanding, taking in every perspective possible.”
While the organization already has more than 80 members on its roster, Harris and Rex said they welcome newcomers of every race and gender.
Though there are requirements for leadership positions (including a cabinet and committees), the only requirement for membership is “to come as you are,” Rex said.
“Membership is open to everyone – black women don’t exist in isolation.”
“Our intention was never only black women exploring black women,” Harris said.
The duo said they do not plan to actively “recruit” members; they said they believe in simply existing and allowing their presence on campus to draw like-minded new members.
Queens Uplifted began as the brain-child of Harris about two years ago. A year later, she and Rex shared a casual conversation about the possibility of forming the group.
The conversation led to serious planning and the creation of the current organization. The cabinet members met informally several times during the planning stages and held their first official meeting Jan. 30.
Harris said she originally dreamed of “filling a void” and creating a space specially dedicated to celebrating black women’s lives and accomplishments.
“[The reason wasn’t] necessarily current events but living life as a black woman and feeling the need to dismantle stereotypes of black women,” Harris said.
Harris and Rex later approached Ebony Jackson, now in charge of the group’s campus relations, about a leadership position.
According to its members, Queens Uplifted plans to work with other organizations on campus while still distinguishing themselves and highlighting what they have to offer that other groups do not.
“I think this organization has so much power and potential to make a statement: We exist, we are here and we are just as important,” Jackson said. “We shouldn’t have to justify or apologize for a space of our own. We should be asking ‘What took so long?’”
Queens Uplifted is currently developing a structure for leadership within the group and planning events.
Students interested can keep up with the group’s activity by liking the Queens Uplifted page on Facebook and following the group on Instagram at @queensuplifted. The group is also open to questions and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.