After college, Erika Green thought she might want to start a women’s magazine.
And while it will include fashion because, as she put it, “teenage girls like fashion”, the magazine will serve a higher purpose – one of freedom, equality and empowerment for women of color.
“You have to prove to other people what you’re capable of . ” said Green, a junior technical communication and journalism major actively involved in at least five CSU organizations. “That’s why I want to create the magazine because I don’t want young women to think that they have to be a stereotype.”
Since she started kindergarten in Colorado Springs as one of two African American girls in the class, Green said she has grown to overcome the challenge of living in predominantly white areas as a woman of color.
And while she said she used to wonder what was wrong with her, she came to realize that there was nothing wrong with her and embraced herself as someone who had much to contribute to and improve society.
From an early age, Green’s parents, especially her mother, encouraged her to try everything and learn from the great leaders of black history, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On every day honoring African American history when they had the day off from school, especially during Black History Month, Green’s parents would have both her and her younger brother Patrick read about prominent African American figures.
At first, Green was upset that she had to learn on her day off. But then, she realized her parent’s motive.
“. Over time, it became beyond words important,” Green said of learning about Black history. “You need to know your history and your past before you can continue on and make a difference. (African American leaders’) messages of freedom, equality, perseverance are things I continue to keep in mind.”
Monday, Green was the master of ceremonies at the Fort Collins Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade that ran through Old Town.
Even by promoting and raising awareness about issues of race and color, Green said she was disheartened to say she doesn’t believe equality and non-discrimination will ever exist because it’s human nature that people judge one another.
“Sadly, I really don’t think so,” Green said when asked if there would ever be a time when race is not an issue.” “People are just so focused on outer appearance and it’s human nature to prejudge a person before you know them. Those prejudices and those things are ingrained in our minds and our personalities.”
In response to the honor of acting as the emcee for MLK Day Parade and for most of her life, Green did not think of herself as a leader. She changed her mind, however, when she became a Freshman Orientation leader in 2008 and started to work in the Student Leadership Involvement and Community Engagement Office for the President’s Leadership Program.
“I’m not a leader, I’m not a leader,” Green used to think to herself until she learned from her work with the two organizations that there is no single mold for a leader – a person must work with their own strengths and weaknesses she said, and this is where her leadership flows from.
“I like to have fun and I try to not take things too seriously,” Green said about the message she hopes she has communicated to people over the years. “I just think that it’s really important for people to know that it’s okay to be yourself and embrace who you are.”
At CSU, Green works for the PLP; Black Student Services; Zeta Phi Beta Inc., a historically black sorority within the National Pan-Hellenic Council; Black Definition; and as an orientation leader in the summers. She said she attends meetings for several other organizations but did not consider herself to be enough of a member to mention the rest.
Green’s level of involvement at CSU was unexpected because she had promised herself she didn’t want do anything but go to school after being active in sports, the National Honor Society and community service in high school.
“The funny thing was that I didn’t want to be involved that much; I just wanted to not be involved,” she said, laughing, an air of reminiscence in her voice.
Green’s mother was a first generation college student and both her parents had to work extremely hard to get where they are today.
Green said that while she is internally motivated, she wants to work hard in life to show her parents that their hard work has paid off for all that they have done for both her and her brother.
Now, after being actively involved on campus since her freshman year and after crediting her peers for much of what she has learned from and admired, Green can believe she is a leader.
“I’m a leader . I’m a leader,” Green said, recommending that any student who wants to become involved and become a great leader should open his or her eyes and look around campus to start the process.
“Get outside and stand on campus for two seconds, get outside of where you live and get on campus,” she said.
“It’s not always about going into an office and talking to someone and asking what they do; it’s about being on campus and meeting people, making friends and doing what they are involved in.”
Assistant News Editor Madeline Novey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.