• Editorial

Student Spotlight - Hanna Daniel

Written by: Timiro Mohamed

Photographed by: Jenna Silverstone

As seen in the March issue of Lazy Faire Magazine.

For this month’s student spotlight, I had the chance to sit down with ASoB student Hanna Daniel. We talked about micro-aggressions, the reality of being a Black woman on campus on what empowerment looks like in practice.

Tell me a bit about yourself and what major are you pursuing.

I was born in the state and my family moved here when I was 10 but my family is originally from Ethiopia. As far as university, I was interested in a career in law and I wanted flexibility so I went into business. My major is business law and economics, my minor in sociology. I’m really interested in the criminology side and I’ve taken a lot of criminology courses.

What are some of the things you are involved with at the moment? Both on and off-campus.

I’m involved in JDC west and I was a part of the first all-girls team to ever compete at the competition, and our team came in fourth. I’m also the VP operation for the business leadership association. We focus on doing networking events and giving students leadership opportunities. We just had an event that ATB sponsored where people could meet with professionals. We also tried to have some recent grads and people entering the workforce so we could have diversity. I also was a TA for accounting 311. Finally, I’m also in the leadership certificate program in the 8th cohort. It is a program for undergrads in the Bcomm program. It shows students examples of leadership close up.

On-campus I’m also a student ambassador and we represent the university in general. We do campus tours for prospective students and their families. We also give alumni tours and hosts them at a lot of events. I’m a team facilitator for the Week of Welcome program. I’ve been doing for three years I’m taking on a senior role. As part of this role, we are responsible for hiring 600 general volunteers to make sure WOW runs smoothly in September.

Also off-campus I am a volunteer at the Elizabeth Fry Society at the provincial courthouse downtown. I work in the court worker program, and we are stationed in the downtown provincial courthouse. We provide support to individuals who are going through proceedings in adult criminal court that don’t have legal counsel. A lot of them either can’t afford legal counsel or they can’t meet the thresh hold for legal aid and still need legal support. We provide legal referrals, we help them communicate with duty counsel (available lawyers stationed outside of court who are in very high demand). We also sit in court and give people return cards so they know when they need to be back in court. A lot of the people that we help are low-income and come from marginalized communities.

Tell me a little bit about the Black Students Association, why did you start it?

Coming into university, I know how powerful it is to have a unified black community on campus and I didn’t see that at the UofA. I was motivated to start the BSA. I had some really supportive friends who were also passionate so we took the initiative to start it. I was able to apply a lot of what I was learning in business within a presidency role. Having to start from scratch and build something meant dealing with all the hurdles that came along the way. We do live in Alberta and there is racism here, but people didn’t understand the struggles and the need that people have to create a space that reflects their race and to have solidarity for youth at the university level. We got a lot of media attention from some of the biggest news stations in western Canada. People were baffled by it and it was fascinating having to explain our perspective. Right now we’re just a group of students that are trying to help the black community on campus come together even though we’re so diverse.

Why is empowerment important to you?

When I first came into campus I was always so excited when I saw other Black women in roles that I aspired to be in. When I met a Black female lawyer for the first time it felt surreal. In my first year, there were rarely any black professors and I was always aware of my differences.

I knew that if there was anything that I could do to step out of my comfort zone and make other people feel that way when they saw me in that role-even if I could have one person see me doing something meaningful- then that it was enough for me to keep doing it.

Ultimately, I want to help people, even if it’s an individual. I don’t need a global impact to have an impact.

How do you navigate the business faculty as a Black woman? How do you call out ignorance while still maintaining professional networks?

To be completely honest I don’t think I’ve even figured that out yet. From a student perspective, I’m in a faculty that is primarily filled with white students who come from positions of privilege. I think approaching things from a place of wanting the other person to understand your perspective is important. That’s been the only way that I’ve gotten people to take a step back and recognize their own ignorance.

As black women navigating campus a lot of the discrimination we experience is in the form of microaggressions. Often we don’t experience outright shows of racism but I personally believe that dealing with microaggressions can be that much harder because you feel like your not justified in speaking up about it. You always have to find a way to fight it without seeming like you’re over-reacting. Especially when you have to explain things from a perspective where the other side has no idea what you are talking about.

You have to be able to find the balance between not compromising your own beliefs and still trying to help others understand and it’s honestly a constant struggle.

You have to be able to find the balance between not compromising your own beliefs and still trying to help others understand and it’s honestly a constant struggle.

How have you been an ally and why is allyship important?

I try to be an ally, especially as a Black woman there needs to be an awareness and solidarity with those who face hardship as well. That in many ways far exceeds the hardship I face. I come from a place of privilege as well, I’m middle class doing perfectly fine. We have to be able to check our own privilege. The first thing that opened my eyes to allyship was my experience at Elizabeth Fry. I was always aware of the hardship that communities such as the indigenous community face but, I never actively made an effort to be sure that people are always being respectful of others. There is power in being an ally and it will be reflected back to our community. For the black community, it is important for us to maintain a strong front and maintain allyship with other communities, espeially with the indigenous community because of how much they have experienced historically.

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