Meet BSA’s new co-executive director Saphia Jackson

USC’s Black Student Assembly elected it’s newest co-executive directors, Saphia Jackson and Ariana Seymore for the 2017-18 school year. I had the pleasure to sit down with Saphia and talk about her journey to being elected as a BSA executive director.

Jackson is a junior studying public policy. She is originally from Michigan but has lived in Los Angeles for about 7 years. She identifies herself as an activist who fights for African-American and women’s rights.

When she first came to USC, however, she did not dive into the black community right away.

“I didn’t really get acclimated to the black community until my sophomore year,” Jackson said. “It did not dawn on me that it was a place where I could belong.”

Jackson attended a predominately latino high school. Due to her bi-racial background, she found herself being distant from the few black students that did attend.

“There were only a handful of black kids and I wasn’t like any of those black kids. My friend groups were mainly latino and white kids.”

Her reluctant attitude changed the summer before her junior year. She found community with the black students at USC who stayed in Los Angeles during the summer.

“We went to bonfires, but we also went to protests. Last summer I really began to resonate with black issues,” Jackson said.

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The summer of 2016 was fueled by numerous shootings and racially charged interactions between black people and police in America. Jackson joined protests to show her desire to reverse the injustices that were occurring.

“There were a lot of shootings, deaths, controversies, emotions, and conversations that needed to be had,” Jackson said. “Getting involved in the black LA community catapulted me into understanding my identity.”

Not only is Jackson bi-racial, but she also is a practicing Muslim. Her intersectional identity has allowed her to make connections between the injustices that black people, Muslim people, and women face.

Not every experience protesting was easy though. Like many others, Jackson had to deal with bystanders and police officers.

“Protesting is very traumatic. I’ve had police officers with guns in my face. Sometimes they would have their batons in their hands or tasers ready” Jackson said.

After a summer of protesting, Jackson now has relationships with members of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. She said that she attributes her activist mindset to the teachings of her parents.

This past summer was critical for Jackson’s evolvement as an activist in the black community. When she returned to school, she saw the opportunity open up to be a director of BSA.

“Elections were coming up and I realized I can’t really do this by myself. I thought maybe Ariana would want to do it and I went and talked to her” Jackson said.

They both agreed to run as co-executive directors. Jackson explained that they have many similar characteristics including their religious background. She believes that their decision-making processes compliment each other and they will accomplish a lot in the next year.

Jackson’s goals for BSA include: allocating funds more efficiently through co-sponsored events, including member organizations to promote diverse black identities, and highlighting intersectionality and different backgrounds.

Her new position has allowed her the chance to reflect on her purpose. Jackson summarized it in simple terms:

“If I can’t inspire somebody, I have failed. If I can’t touch you in a way that doesn’t make you want to think, want to do something, or question me, I’ve failed.”

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