The four years an undergraduate spends at Virginia Tech are not only defined by classes and football games, but also by the relationships built within the Hokie community.
This rings true for Tekisha D’Wann Everette, Nakeina Douglas-Glenn, Jennifer Cole, and Yolanda Latrice Avent–Class of 1998. Remaining close friends over the years, these four women embody the powerful, lasting bonds within the Hokie Nation. Tekisha, Nakeina, Jennifer, and Yolanda are linked through their ties with their sorority, but they were initially connected through the tight-knit African American community in Blacksburg.
As young African American women, Tekisha, Nakeina, Jennifer, and Yolanda experienced a different side of Virginia Tech than most of their peers. Instead of letting their minority status cripple them, these women defined themselves by developing close, interpersonal relationships with friends and faculty. Becoming deeply ingrained in the African American community, all four women defined their own time as Hokies in unique, remarkable ways.
So in the narratives when we talk about who survives in Blacksburg and why they survive it’s so interesting to see how our story brought us to the same space, but then we both went in completely different directions that don’t necessarily fit the narrative that people tell about the black experience at Virginia Tech.
While many paths led these women to Blacksburg, Virginia, Yolanda Latrice Avent remarks that it was Nikki Giovanni who drew her to become a Hokie.
Nikki Giovanni is the reason I came to Virginia Tech. Like when it all kind of came together, you get the application and you’re learning and looking through, it just made sense because of how much I was a poetry person…Nikki made me feel unapologetically black.
Many other teachers and mentors influenced the lives of these women: Dr. Noreen Bailey Spencer, Dr. Ann McNabb, Ann Kilkelly, Dr. Larry Killough, Dr. Richard Shingles, Jill Kielcolt, Elizabeth Holden, Karen Holt. With the support of their mentors and the powerful relationships built in the African American community, these four women pushed for social change in the face of adversity. These women used their voices to protest the Ebonics emails on campus and defamation of the NAACP door; marching to President Torgerson’s office, these women fought for a campus free of hate and exclusion. Their collective voices were heard not only by their peers, but also by faculty who stood by their side on solidarity.
I remember being the person who went down and marched with several students to Torgerson’s office and was like, “We’re not going to do this.” Like this can’t be the legacy of the story of Virginia Tech and we’re in the 90s…Something has to change.
Tekisha, Nakeina, Jennifer, and Yolanda did not only change Virginia Tech, but also changed the lives of one another. This close group are not only friends, but sisters. Despite their individual hardships, these women lifted each other up, became a foundation of love and respect, became family.
But the sorority didn’t bring us together; Tech brought us together… I have highs in my life and I’ve got lows in my life. These are the women that we call. We travel together. We cry together. We love together. We have fun together. We fight together. We’ve been together since we were 18 and we’ve grown up together, you know, we’ve spent all of our life together…
These relationships transcended their four years together; as they are reunited, it is as if no time has passed–transported back to a time of blustery Drillfield walks, Kroger breakfasts, and road trips to a Prince concert.
I don’t either, but I just remember like…and it’s the same thing you think about now you were talking about what you say to young people, and I always say value college, because when you look back you might have childhood friends and all these other people, but the friends you make in college are the friends you make for life… It’s just I don’t know; Virginia Tech is like home. There is no other way to describe it.
Virginia Tech challenged these four women; despite this, they all stand stronger today for their time spent in their Blacksburg home. As pillars for inclusion on campus, these women exemplify the qualities of a true Hokie–mutual respect above all else.
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About this Story
Date Recorded: April 22, 2016
Interviewer: Claire Gogan
Date Posted: October 28, 2016
Editor: Shannon Larkin and Jessie Rogers