CLEVELAND, Miss. (WLBT) – An article published by NBC reports that nationally, white students at public colleges are two and a half times more likely to graduate than Black students.
The article cites that many factors contribute to this, such as financial concerns, the need to play “catch-up,” and campus culture. Black students are tasked with not only making their campuses feel like home, but also thriving in spaces where they are minorities.
So how do Black students work to not only complete a degree filled with rigorous curriculum, but to also make their campus a place where they feel as if they belong and matter?
Jamareus Freeman is working to not only solve this problem, but also intends to create a legacy that will last long after he receives his diploma.
Freeman is a senior at Delta State University, and while the university has reported a surge in graduation rates among African American students, Freeman is still dedicated to making the college experience as meaningful as possible for minorities and students of color.
In the Spring of 2021, Freeman started the first gospel choir at Delta State University, his way of integrating black culture into predominantly white spaces, and giving black students a place to not only celebrate their culture, but to thrive and succeed on their campus.
Freeman is apart of multiple campus organizations, with one of his biggest achievements being obtaining membership into Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., one of the nine historically Black Greek Letter Organizations.
While many of the BGLOs were founded at historically Black colleges and universities, it was not long before these organizations made their way to predominantly white institutions, giving members the important responsibility of maintaining the rich legacy of their organizations as minorities.
His organization was founded on the idea of “culture for service and service for humanity,” and Freeman has taken it upon himself to demonstrate what that means to him in both his professional and collegiate life.
“Whether I’m on stage, working in my community, or in the classroom, I am always giving my best performance.”
Freeman’s eminence was noticed by his peers, and Freeman was nominated to start a gospel choir at his university.
When he recalls the moment that this honor was bestowed upon him, his face lights up.
“I got asked to sing at an oratorical contest during Black History Month at school,” Freeman explained.
“I went up and talked to one of the ladies who worked in student life and she asked me ‘Do you know music? Can you teach music?’, and my eyes got big.”
Freeman’s days of directing music started in high school when he started his own group called “The Elite 6.″ He expressed that this was when he realized that directing music was his passion.
Realizing that the product of a dream he had since he was an adolescent was right in from of him, Freeman jumped at this opportunity, and less than 24 hours later, the Divine Voices Gospel Choir was born.
“The things that I have always wanted, I have manifested them to this point. I have always wanted to teach and direct and now I have a Gospel choir. It blows my mind,” said Freeman.
His commitment to higher education, as well as music, has provided an outlet for students of color to preserve and represent the importance of black culture at a predominantly white institution. Freeman believes that it is important for students of color to know that they matter on their campus, and that they are not only a part of a marginalized community.
“Going to direct my choir and see how they get into it. That’s the thrill for me, and that’s why I keep going.”
The Divine Voices have collaborated with multiple organizations both on and off campus such as the Baptist Student Union, and has served as praise teams for local churches.
Freeman also announced that his choir is hosting an “Old School Gospel Explosion,” on the Quad at Delta State during the week of homecoming.
“There’s never been a gospel choir concert on the quad,” Freeman asserts proudly.
“I wanted the theme to be old school, because in this day and time with COVID, what we need now is how church used to be when I was younger. Just singing old school songs that got us through.”
Freeman has created a space for students from different backgrounds to come together, and to him, that has been the most rewarding aspect.
“It’s beautiful, because we all come together to do one thing,” Freeman explained.
“The different ways that we praise and worship can be totally different. We have different denominations so, it is different. I try to think about everybody, because everyone isn’t going to listen to praise music, everyone isn’t going to listen to worship music. We all come together to do one thing on one accord.”
While Freeman has gathered students to share a vision, he has faced challenges in presenting this vision to his campus community. How does one present their culture and interests without feeling as if it is “too much?’
“What keeps me going, is that I don’t want to be that ‘start and stop’ organization. I don’t want to do this just to be seen, because that’s not what this is.”
“I’ve definitely had moments where I think, ‘Maybe I don’t need to do this right now,’ but then I think, ‘At one point there was no choir, and there was a reason for that.’ It definitely does get challenging, but if not me, then who?”
One may wonder why Freeman has made the decision to continue collegiate life if he is seeing his professional dreams play out before him, however his willpower keeps him motivated.
“My mom didn’t pressure me to go to college, but as for me? I wanted to go to college. I look back and think that if I didn’t go to college, I might not have had the opportunity to blossom like this.”
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