CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A North Carolina student is crediting an Historically Black College and University for empowering students to be leaders, on and off the campus grounds. 

What You Need To Know

  • HBCUs  have played a crucial role in empowering leaders and students on the front lines of social justice

  • One North Carolina student credits his university for helping him become a leader on and off the campus grounds 

  • He hopes this story motivates other students to give back to their communities and be a voice for change 

Justin Nixon is a political science major at Johnson C. Smith University.

The junior has made a name for himself as a leader across the JCSU and Charlotte communities.

"I appreciate JCSU tremendously for everything they've done for me," Nixon said. 

Nixon was part of a fellowship with the Charlotte Racial Justice Consortium. He also served as a democracy fellow for organizations committed to civic engagement. 

Nixon was recently initiated into the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity at Johnson C. Smith University. 

"I serve as the social action chair and vice president of the chapter, where I focus a lot on social activism and address the pressing needs of both the local community and the campus," Nixon said. 

He said studying at JCSU has been a transformational experience for him, both personally and professionally.

"When I was a senior in high school back in 2021, I was not sure if I wanted to go to college, of if I was even prepared to go and succeed there," Nixon said. "But the faculty and staff made me feel welcome. They made me feel I could do whatever it is I set my mind to."

HBCUs have played a crucial role in empowering Black leaders and students on the front lines of social justice.

"[We've had] Dick Gregory lecturing at JCSU in the 1970s," Nixon said. "We've also had Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., come and talk to our students." 

Nixon says JCSU professors and staff members are continuing that legacy. 

"Provide that intellectual challenge for students to be able to understand and critically examine different issues that affect us and the larger society," Nixon said. "I've had so many opportunities to develop my voice and my ability to service others. JCSU has a long history of standing on the front lines of civil rights struggles and social activism. I think that's one thing that peaks' my interest as a student here at JCSU. Finding a way to carry on that legacy of activism and community." 

Nixon's skills were recently put to the test at the JCSU Lyceum Engagement Series. 

The lecture series provides a platform to exchange ideas and talk about serious issues impacting our communities. The Lyceums are led by students. 

Nixon served as the moderator for the Lyceum Engagement Series, featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "The 1619 Project."

Nixon says JCSU continuously provides opportunities like this for students to learn from leaders who are not afraid to confront racial inequalities.

"For instance, we had Cornel West, another excellent mind, come to the campus," Nixon said. "Continuing to have academics and truly transformational activists come to our campus and speak to students about the importance of understanding race and other issues pressing our society." 

Nixon added, the culture at JCSU motivates him to continue making a difference in his community, while being a voice for change. Nixon hopes his actions continue to motivate other students to do the same. 

"I'm working on a JCSU civic engagement initiative. Last semester and this semester, I was able to get 30 student volunteers for community clean-up in the local Biddleville community. I've done a wide variety of things to make an impact on the campus community and the community that surrounds us. I don't think if I didn't come to JCSU I'd be where I am today on a personal, academic or professional level," Nixon said.

Nixon is also running for student government association president at JCSU.