Looking for Community
There I was, a fresh faced first year, walking into 721 Broadway for the first time. It was my first year as a drama student, and I didn’t know what to expect. There are new students everywhere, excitedly following the huge crowd to the student cafe. This was the Annual Tisch Club Fair, where new students begin finding community. I was alone, and pretty overwhelmed with all the trifolds and email lists. I just wanted to find a space where I belonged. Somewhere that felt like home. Then, I saw two girls waving me over to their table. I thought to myself, “they look like me”, and I found myself walking to their table excitedly. It wasn’t my first day as an NYU student, but it was the first that made me feel like I belonged.
What Is The Collective?
So, you may be wondering what exactly is The Collective? Founded 15 years ago, this club was the first organization within Tisch specifically for Black student artists. A part of our mission states, ” The Collective is committed to empowering, highlighting, and producing new works from rising Black multidisciplinary artists and creatives at NYU in the respective fields of theatre, film, visual, and performing arts.” Consisting of multiple chapters for the various departments in Tisch, we work together to create environments for and by us. From programming, to simply sharing in the joy that comes from being in the presence of our own community, we have made a space in which we can truly celebrate and be there for one another.
"Guided by the Lights of Our Ancestors."
My first year was one filled with finding community. Not only did The Collective do that for me, but it also changed me as an artist. The annual Pro Black One Act Play Festival, an event where Black playwrights and actors collaborate on original work, definitely did both. Lauryn Darden, a featured playwright in 2019’s festival agreed. Darden said, “it was really nice to be apart of a festival that centered Black voices.” For her, it was one of the first times she saw her original work on its feet.
"Our Individual Voices Join to Knit the Quilts of Tomorrow."
The Collective puts on a variety of different events. “The Black Short Film Festival”, where film students can share their original work in front of a live audience. Another fun event is,”Speed Dating”, where you can pitch projects and meet future collaborators. Also, the club has food filled trivia and movie nights. But besides that, we create the rooms we want to see. We are building community, and a network of people to depend on. Nia Nation, The Collective’s former President, speaks to the value of these spaces. Nia says, “Creating space for myself as a Black artist looks like being my most authentic and unapologetic.” It’s in these spaces that we are truly able to see ourselves, and be ourselves as we look to where we want to go as artists.
We all remember how big of a transition Remote learning was. Fortunately, The Collective adjusted its platform to serve students even in the virtual era. From online trivia nights, mindfulness Mondays with a Black owned Yoga studio, conversations with Black mental health specialists, we found ways to be together, even virtually. One of my personal favorites, an Alumni panel, hosted by the one and only Jelani Aladdin, brought great dialogue about Black artistry. Together, we found out what worked for us in during the new way of connecting.
Our New "Normal"
We are now as a University, almost completely in person. Returning to classrooms, performances, and learning how to be the people we once were, and now are. The Collective has been working hard to match this new transformation. By bringing back in person meetings we’ve been able to truly be together. We’ve brought back our table talks from everything on Black Queer Identity to Navigating PWI’s. Being together, has brought so much joy, and even more connection!
Looking Back and Looking Forward
Who would have guessed that one club fair would change my NYU experience? It was only four (AH) years ago when I walked into that building for the first time. Now, I serve as the Co- President of The Collective, alongside some of my greatest friends. I’ve learned so much about the power of my own voice, and wish the same to all reading. We carry the torch of those before, while making way for the next wave of Black artists at Tisch to know they always have a space to not only belong, but to excel.