The Voice of Montclair

Hickson captured in a moment of laughter.

“I felt the need to make noise on campus. It was too quiet” said Joniesha Hickson, a junior at Montclair State University. Joniesha, who goes by the name “Jojo” has become quite the voice on campus, reaching out to administration and orchestrating events centered on the topic of racial inequality.

Hickson, who was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey states that she always knew what she wanted to do, be a clinician with her own private practice. However, she found herself minoring in African-American studies as a result of the condition of the relations between African-Americans and law enforcement. With her minor, she aspires to become more educated in the history of her people in an effort to understand how to move forward.

The Black Lives Matter: Beyond the Hashtag Flyer

This past November, there was an event in the student center hosted by The Office of Equity and Diversity where the topic of the discussion was the Black Lives Matter movement. Hickson was on the panel and at the beginning of the event, it was discovered that she was also the reason for the event itself. Hickson had reached out to President Cole in the summer, after the death of Eric Garner.

When asked what motivated her to reach out, she said “The moment Trayvon Martin was killed struck me. That was racisms ugly face veering its ugly head at me. Next, Mike Brown … Eric Garner … it was all hitting close to home.” Hickson sent an email to President Cole, which then got CCed to Sidney Gardner and Sandra Lewis, and next thing you know, they began planning this event for the Fall semester.

All of this, the result of feeling like there were no type of responses on campus to the unarmed shootings of black women, men and children. Hickson shared that it felt as though the school didn’t care or simply wasn’t expressing enough concern about the issues, therefore making students feel as though they didn’t care about them. These deaths, happening so closely together began to affect the ways in which she started viewing the world and that’s when she knew she had to do something.

Most people would never take on a task so large. Most, wouldn’t think to reach out to the President of the University in which they attend. In an institution this large, it is quite the surprise to know that the voice of one student actually made a difference, that the voice of one student actually got the chance to be heard. It opens the door for others to feel comfortable enough to voice their opinions without fear of being dismissed.

Hickson, clearly not one to give up, says she had a plan. “Even if they didn’t answer me, I was going to keep reaching out and knowing myself, ill-tempered as I am, had they not responded I would’ve caused hell.” She then went on to explain to me how the institution not answering would’ve been an answer in itself. It would have only proven the notion that they don’t care, and after admitting her persistence, Hickson admits that in regard to the situation, she would’ve never taken “no” for an answer.

Hickson at the Student Center hanging out with friends.

Although all of it hasn’t been easy, Hickson remains humbled and grateful for the relationships that all of this has brought her. “I love the relationships I was able to build over the course of my three years here. Because of them, I am where I am today.” Hickson takes a moment to herself and smiles, she then admits that if not for the help of administrators, mentors, and professors, there would’ve never been an event in the first place which means all the ones currently in the making would cease to exist.

“They nurture me and encourage me and because of that, I feel like I can take on the world.” Curious as to who inspires her, aside from all of those who’ve helped her grow, Hickson begins to chuckle and something seems to glow in her light brown eyes as if we’re about to touch upon something of great importance. She begins to go on about “The Greats” as she calls them. Which consists of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, The Black Panthers, and Assata Shakur. “All those people were so amazing and unwavering in their efforts. They didn’t let fear or consequence stop them from fighting and I aim to be like them.”

So what’s next for Jojo Hickson? Currently, she’s working with The Office of Equity & Diversity on several events coming up to discuss Black issues and how to move forward. She’s also working on a symposium for social justice week that she’s really excited about. However, that’s not all … taking it back to what truly inspires her, she’s working with those in-charge of Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Youth Division to organize and protest.

Did she ever think it would come this far? “No. But I’m happy to have reached out and to have heard the grievances of my peers and to learn that a lot of people feel the same way. The youth is always at the forefront of the revolution. So I’m here.”

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