Katia Faroun | Features Editor
A new online support group provides Black Duquesne students with access to professional care, a place to be heard and an encouraging community: the support of a virtual village.
The Village is a virtual support group for African-American Duquesne students that began this past July. The mission of the group is to create a space for Black students where they can openly express themselves and their emotions, specifically regarding racial stress and trauma. The group, which meets over Zoom every Wednesday, consists of a small group of students that spend their time sharing their experiences and supporting each other.
Over the summer, the Center for Student Wellbeing released a statement of solidarity in which it mentioned the formation of The Village as a virtual support group and promised to “stand with our people and advocate for their wellness in this and many dimensions.” By July, The Village was established, and the number of students involved was increasing even before the start of classes.
The group is facilitated by Quincy Stephenson, assistant director and outreach coordinator of the Center for Student Wellbeing, who has been asked to lead the group each week. His experience with addressing racial stress and trauma — as well as his being the only African-American male therapist on staff — encouraged the center to ask that Stephenson act as the group’s primary facilitator.
The group’s main objective is to create a welcoming space for Black students specifically, where they can share their emotions and experiences with each other while also receiving support from the other members within the group.
“The primary goal of the group is to provide a space for Black students where they can express their emotional needs and receive support, specifically around issues of racial stress and racial tension,” Stephenson said.
The Village was formed following the events surrounding the death of George Floyd and the national conversation on race that his death sparked. Students brought information to the Center for Student Wellbeing, encouraging the center to offer more support to Black students, especially in light of the tension surrounding the summer’s events. The Center for Student Wellbeing partnered with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to create The Village as a way to offer this support.
To accompany the support of the center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s role includes assessment and evaluation of the outcomes of the group, according to Dr. Anthony Kane, director of the office.
“For our office, it’s continuing to promote The Village as a place for students to go and talk and get support, but more importantly to assess how it’s had positive effects on students,” Kane said. “We want to make sure that our students of color — our African-American and Black students at Duquesne — feel like they belong, and if participating in an hour virtual support group every week helps them establish that positive sense of belonging, then we’re doing the right thing — we’re moving in the right direction.”
So far, the group consists of anywhere between three and 15 students each week that offer support to each other and find the support they need themselves. The group continues to grow.
“We’re able to have real, authentic and genuine conversations around their needs, around their hurts and around their understanding of what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it,” Stephenson said.
Despite only hosting meetings since July, Kane believes that the group has already had a positive effect on the students.
“We’ve already seen through conversations with students or just the students’ body language that students are becoming more comfortable in addressing the situations and leading the conversation around them,” Kane said.
While the main focus of the group is to support Black Duquesne students, the hope is for the conversation on race to continue, not just on campus but throughout the nation.
“If we’re not talking about race, if we’re not talking about racism, it tends to get dismissed or marginalized, so it is important for the conversation to happen,” Stephenson said. “It’s able to bring attention to the needs of so many students, and hopefully it will promote change.”
Those interested in joining The Village can sign up by emailing Quincy Stephenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.