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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Strive empowers Black men through unity, education and community support

Illustration by Shveta Shah
Strive aims to provide a safe and relaxed space for Black men at Northwestern, according to student leaders in the organization.

A beacon of support and empowerment, Strive is Northwestern’s exclusively Black-male club. Founded on the principles of unity, education and community outreach, Strive stands as a vital student organization, providing a safe and relaxed space for Black men in an environment that can often be isolating, SESP junior and Strive President Jackson Gordwin said.

“I’ve just always been passionate about helping the Black community, specifically the Black male community just because it’s something that I closely identify with,” Gordwin said.

Strive was created in response to the need for a sense of belonging and empowerment for Black men navigating college, he added.

Gordwin recognized the unique struggles faced by Black men on campus and envisioned a community that not only addresses those challenges but also celebrates the strengths and achievements of its diverse members. 

“In terms of just pure numbers, there are a lot more Black women on campus than Black men, and a lot of the spaces that are for Black people are dominated by women,” SESP junior and Strive career development chair Faris Haghamed said. “We wanted to create this space because we understand Black guys go through things that don’t pertain to everyone else around them.”

One of the key pillars of Strive is unity, so members can forge deep connections and foster an environment of shared growth and resilience.

In NU’s academic landscape — which can sometimes feel impersonal and overwhelming — Strive offers the opportunity to create lasting connections that extend beyond the classroom, Gordwin said.

“I think Strive is an important club for me because it allows for Black men to get together in a non-academic setting … be social and create a community amongst each other in what can otherwise be an isolating environment,” he said.

Half of the Black population, which is advertised on the NU Undergraduate Admissions page as about 12%, is male. Black athletes make up an even smaller portion.

“Since we’re a Big Ten school, there’s a large athlete culture and a lot of the athletes … are Black athletes, and Strive facilitates relationships across campus,” Gordwin said.

Gordwin said his favorite part of Strive is the bonds he is able to form with people all across campus and all across the world.

“We have a pretty large executive board with 11 members on it,” Gordwin said. “Some come from Florida, some come from Connecticut, others like me are from Arizona and we even have an international presence from Kenya and Sudan.”

Through mentorship programs, speaker panels and volunteering events, Strive aims to empower its members with the tools they need to thrive both academically and personally. 

“One of our mentors is Michael Blake, an NU alum, and he works with Atlas Strategy Group, so he’s a really good connection that we have and he helps us with our thought processes and our strategies,” Gordwin said.

Haghamed said he has been working on putting together career docs to help with internships and programs for different disciplines.

There are a number of first-generation students in Strive that are looking toward the organization for help in curating their path during their time at NU.

“First-generation students don’t have that guidance from parents or from elders,” Haghamed said. “As career development chair, my job is to make sure that people know about the career opportunities available to them, especially diversity programs.”

Last week, Strive partnered with Northwestern Career Advancement to provide its members with interview tips and techniques.

According to Gordwin, these efforts reflect Strive’s mission that centers around Black men’s ability to not only belong but thrive in higher-education institutes, particularly amid ongoing conversations surrounding affirmative action initiatives in college admissions.

“I know that with affirmative action, it’s kind of taking away a lot of diversity programs and making it harder for Black men to get into higher education institutions, and I think Strive can help prove that Black men belong in these spaces,” Gordwin said. “One way that Strive can be used is to advocate for more diversity programs and for more pipeline programs that can help Black men get into schools such as Northwestern.”

By fostering a culture of continuous learning, Strive not only addresses the immediate challenges of university life but also prepares its members for success.

Beyond the campus walls, Strive volunteers at local schools and organizes educational outreach programs to make a positive impact on the lives of those beyond NU’s campus.

“I think it’d be nice if we are able to do some work in inner-city schools and help mentor and succeed academically so that they can get into schools like Northwestern,” Gordwin said. 

Last year, Strive traveled to local middle schools to help with basketball practices and hopes to continue doing so in the future.

While this space allows for open conversations about shared experiences, Strive has felt some adversity when establishing the organization.

“Any time there is a community that is majority Black in a space that is predominantly white, it’s difficult,” Gordwin said. “There’s only so much support that you can really get from the community, especially since the target population for Strive makes up less than 6% of the school, but that’s not gonna stop us or our mission and we don’t really do it for those people, but we do it for ourselves.”

Gordwin said knowing that he can help future generations of Black youth keeps him motivated.

Strive’s impact is tangible, both within the organization and in the broader NU community, he added. The organization hopes to become a catalyst for change, challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers through its commitment to unity, education and community outreach.

“We do basically a little bit of everything to make sure there’s a community for people to have fun and get to know each other, but also at the same time benefit the broader community as well,” Haghamed said.

Haghamed said the group chat has over 100 active members and has 10 to 15 people show up to weekly events and meetings.

McCormick sophomore and director of social media Jared Berry said the Strive experience has been amazing.

“Having (Strive as) a community to fall back on, and it’s nice to provide that space for other Black people,” Berry said.

Berry hopes the future of Strive becomes more stable as people get more involved. 

“We now try to focus on how Black men interact with society and how we can be more productive and positive figures in the community,” Gordwin said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @HabashySam

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