Becoming the new Black students’ representative on the UMSU board of directors feels like a “full circle moment” for Damilola Ojo.
Ojo was elected as Black students’ representative for the remainder of the term during a by-election held at the UMSU board of directors (BoD) meeting on Jan. 11. The position had been vacant since a Nov. 30 special BoD meeting.
Ojo said her new position is a way for Black student voices to be heard throughout the university.
This is not the first time Ojo has been a voice for the Black community. In grade 11, Ojo created the first-ever Black History Month event at St. Mary’s Academy.
In grade 12, she expanded the event, showing other students how she started the event at her school, because “when [she] did it, there was no blueprint.”
“I’m happy that I didn’t let this passion of activism and this passion of being a leader die in high school,” she said.
Ojo was the U of M Black Students’ Union president in 2022 and co-president in 2023. During her term as president, she felt that the various student groups within the Black students’ community were lacking in collaboration.
“It kind of just felt like we were all in competition against each other,” she said.
That reason was part of Ojo’s motivation to run for the Black students’ rep position. The night of the election, Ojo and the other two candidates, Emmanuel Amaraizu and Ihuomachi Puilolui, spoke about the initiatives each hoped to bring to the position. Ojo said between the three of them, regardless of who was elected, they would have congratulated each other, “because we’re all on the same team.”
Organizing the recent vigil for Afolabi Stephen Opaso – a U of M economics student from Nigeria who was killed by police on Dec. 31 – was a “taxing event” for Ojo. She hopes that it was “a first step into making something more permanent here on campus.”
By the end of the winter term Ojo hopes that, as Black students’ rep, she can help “his memory live on” on the U of M campus.
Ojo said that being in leadership while Black, “you do at some point need to put your foot down and be able to voice your opinions without getting the negative stigma back.”
“Being a Black woman just in general isn’t easy,” Ojo said. And being a Black woman in a leadership position is even harder, Ojo said.
However, being elected “just reminds me that I’m on the right path in life,” said Ojo.