Chyna Brodie wants everyone to know she’s the people’s president. That was clear when we sat down with the West Orange, New Jersey native over Zoom, who still found a way to greet fellow students with hugs and smiles throughout our conversation. While Brodie insists she is just like other students, she has a lot on her plate.
Brodie American University’s Student Body President, which she noted is about as many hours as a full-time job. She is a third-year student majoring in Political Science with a minor in African-American studies. Brodie has been busy making her mark since her arrival at AU and has hopes to attend law school after AU and pursue a career in politics.
Read below to see how Brodie plans to impact AU, the importance of her identity, and her love for the Black community.
Sofia Dean: What activities have you been involved with on campus?
Chyna Brodie: Before I was student body president, I created the Black Student Success Series, which met every Tuesday for two hours, and we discussed what it means to be Black at AU. I was also a Senator at large. Since October of 2019, I kind of created this position for myself where I pitched to the Women in Politics Institute director; I remember saying; “I noticed you don't have any undergraduates. I'd love to start that undergraduate process for you because it's a graduate institute.” I was also in the Black Pre-Professional Society and Women’s Initiative for two years. Now, being student body president takes up all my time, I work about 35 hours a week on just student body president things. I have two jobs, one with the Women in Politics Institute and as an AUx Peer Facilitator, but I take being student body president very seriously because I was elected to help serve students.
SD: What impact do you hope to have at AU and beyond?
CB: I want people to view my presidency as transformative. I’ve really tried to set the tone that I'm here to represent you. I am the people's president. We should have no elitism. I am student body president, but I’m also just a student like everyone else. I also hope I’ve inspired someone to believe they can do it. I see that people suffer from imposter syndrome a lot at this school. Representation is super important. It is a key step toward people actually believing that they could do it, too and I hope what I’ve done has made that more of a reality for some people. Hard work is also important, and I hope I've been a president that exemplifies that. Nothing just happens; you have to make it happen.
SD: How has your personal life and background shaped the goals that you've had during your time as student body president?
CB: I think as a Black woman student body president, the duality in which I serve as being Black and a woman is very profound. It's been super important to uplift BIPOC voices this year. I advocate for all students, but as a Black woman, I think it's been super important to advocate for Black people and marginalized communities. So whether that be sending out a message to the entire student body pushing an event they should be attending or sending out the Black History Month calendar of events. Just further elevating the programming going on by Black organizations. It's important to not only advocate but be there for the people that you claim to serve. I've been to over thirty live events this year, including cultural orgs, just reassuring that I'm there to support them and that I'm proud of them for their work. I also support any way I can by shifting funding to Black orgs and ensuring they get the funding they need to put on stellar events. So honestly, within every capacity, just making sure that I'm advocating and amplifying their voices.
SD: What challenges do you face as a Black woman and a student leader on campus?
CB: I don’t view anything anymore as a challenge. Maybe not as a challenge, but I don’t view things as being hard. Hard is a mindset. I could do anything I put my mind to. I'm never going to code switch for anyone. I will always be Chyna through and through, and I think that’s powerful. A lot of Black people or people of color with leadership positions feel as if they have to change who their core is to fit into certain spheres. I'm going to be me, my Black girl magic, wherever I am, I’m not changing that for anyone, and I command respect. For me, nothing has really changed. But now I feel like I can’t pop up on campus looking any sort of way. The way I approach the table and see things is definitely different because I'm a Black woman student body president because the areas of privilege that I navigate are different from a white man or even a Black man. I love being a Black woman and showing excellence through this role.
SD: How do you show yourself love and self-care while balancing your responsibilities?
CB: It’s an arduous process because I’m the type of person that if there are things due, I really can’t have self-care, and for me, there’s always something to do. So self-care is something I have been working on. It is difficult because when things are great, I get the praise, but if there were a failure, they would say it fell through because of me. That’s also something that comes as a result of me being a Black woman; people are quick to scrutinize. I think, as a result, there comes a lack of self-care, or a lack of time to practice self-care, but I’m trying to work on it.
SD: Could you describe your love for the Black community at AU and how you show that as a leader on campus?
CB: My love for the Black community at AU is over the moon. Within the first couple of days of being on campus, I was at Roper Hall for like three hours and giving out special business cards to everyone just so they knew they had a resource and support in me. I would not be where I am today without the support of the Black community. The Black community is a powerful group, we are doing a lot of programming and we have a presence on campus. It’s just great to see that and elevate and amplify it. I see with my friends, who are now leaders in a lot of these clubs, the work that they’re doing and I make sure to always give credit. People need to be praised while they’re here. It’s also a good feeling knowing that other Black people at AU know who I am and can come up to me and say, “what’s up;” it’s great to have that.
SD: What's one piece of advice you would give to other Black students at AU, particularly Black women who are looking to be student leaders themselves?
CB: Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. You need to have good people around you who believe in you. You're qualified, you're excellent, and you have everything within your arsenal to be successful and to be a leader at AU. AU needs more Black women student leaders because we're able to provide a perspective of the AU experience that everyone will benefit from. Black women run this campus like you see with the programming in organizations that's being done and a lot of that is done by Black women. We need that more at the student government level because I feel like the Black women I know at AU are honestly so tenacious. We need that represented within our student government. Don't let anything hold you back and have a good team around you.
Chyna Brodie has made waves on campus, making it a point to make big changes and getting to know individual members of the AU community. Her Black Girl Magic has been the driving force behind those waves, and she hopes to continue making change at AU and beyond.