As the nation begins to celebrate Black History Month, the O’Neill School is working to amplify Black voices within our own community. From students to faculty and alumni, the O’Neill IUPUI blog will feature guest posts throughout February discussing the individual’s research, fields of expertise, and/or experiences.
Sydney Hylton is only in her second year at O’Neill IUPUI. Yet she already has big plans. After she graduates with a Public Safety Management degree, she plans to continue her education into graduate school. That’s because she says she wants to be prepared for her future—and yours.
“My overall goal is to take part in the creation of disaster plans for any situation, ranging from man-made disasters to environmental disasters,” she says.
Sydney sees emergency planning through multiple lenses—including approaching disaster preparation and management with an eye on equity.
“I want to be the one who advocates for all people on every social level and make sure that they are protected and not abandoned during disasters,” she explains.
With a commitment to ensuring a more just, honest, and equitable future, Sydney agreed to share her thoughts, experiences, and views on a wide array of topics, in her own words:
Black History Month:
“My mom was the first Black teacher to teach in our K-8 school. Along with her, came me and two of my older sisters, standing out in each of our three grades because of our individuality. When I was younger, I felt like Black History Month was my time to shine. Every year in February, I remember my classes dedicating time to make projects showcasing African Americans and their various impacts. I never knew if this was something the school had added because my family and I were enrolled, but I knew I needed to set a precedent with my work and the projects I put together, regardless. My projects were dope and creative, and in my eyes, made me just as impactful as those we were presenting about.”
Celebrating Black history:
“Simply stated, Black history cannot and should not be condensed into one singular month. It’s too rich to only want to learn about it in one month out of the year, in my opinion. The reason I believe everyone should celebrate Black history beyond February is because it is so inspiring to hear about what Black people endured and overcame as time has gone on. Black History is not a controversial topic—it is an influential topic, interconnected to so many other cultures. You simply cannot learn about any historical time era without adding in a sprinkle of Black history and the impact Black people had around the globe.”
The summer of 2020:
“During summer 2020, I remember feeling very numb to what was happening, as if I were frozen in time. Going onto social media felt so draining yet so necessary because I wanted to feel as though I was helping and making an impact by signing petitions or donating. I was so overwhelmed with everything but, by the end of the events, I realized that there was so much more work that needs to be done on behalf of Black people not only in this county but around the world. During this time, I was also learning more than ever about Black history in America. Having to learn about the true severities of slavery—through online social media outlets—really exposed me to how much we have been robbed of other perspectives of American history.”
How 2020 will impact Black history:
“In our future, we will have more people demanding to learn about Black history. With our generation—Gen Z—being the most diverse generation ever, so many young people are being exposed to the idea of racial injustice through social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. We are blessed to grow up in a time where social media is so prevalent because it forces the conversation of systemic inequality to start early and start wide. I think the events of the past summer will shape Black history in many ways. It truly woke people up to the severity of racism in America and how ingrained it is into our current culture. The summer of 2020 will, without a doubt, be another milestone of change for Black people in America. But, more importantly, it will be seen as a big stepping stone pushing us, as a country, towards making real changes to benefit our futures.”
Mentors in racial justice and quality:
“My Auntie Margaret is who I view as a mentor when it comes to issues of racial justice and equality. Ever since I was little, I remember her always being so outspoken on topics she was passionate about and never having a fear of being the loudest person in a room. She constantly embraces her African roots through her fashion and through the way she decorates her home. Every week, she is on the phone with my mom, talking about all the things she wished she could change within our country, sharing her political beliefs, and emphasizing how she is very hopeful that the next generation will continue the fight for racial change in the United States. While the events of summer 2020 were happening, even though she is a bit older, she was consistently posting and reposting about what was happening, petitions to sign, and donation links on her Instagram. She is truly the epitome of someone who wants and fights for fairness and justice.”
Using education to impact racial and social justice:
“One of the first things I learned within the O’Neill School was the idea of implicit bias. I believe this is one of the most important key knowledge points when it comes to being a part of this school. Throughout the rest of my years at IUPUI, the O’Neill School will continuously supply me with the proper education to keep the conversation of social and racial justice going. The O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs is directly related to combating these issues because we are creating the next generations of law enforcement officers, policymakers, criminal justice influencers, and more. The inclusiveness within our school will help me and all students to make connections with others, all focused on making lasting impacts in the future.”