Ruminate & Illuminate: Javyn Booth on Phoenix College, Black Student Union, and Black History Month

Monday, February 5, 2024
Phoenix College student and Black Student Union President Javyn Booth stands outside the Library on campus
Past President of Phoenix College's Black Student Union Mistura "Mimi" Owolabi makes a heart with her hands on campus
Phoenix College staff Vashi Worley is advisor to the Black Student Union
Phoenix College student and Black Student Union President Javyn Booth sits on campus in a black shirt printed with pink roses

In this new series, Ruminate & Illuminate, PC News shares the stories of students who think deeply about an important moment in their life and a significant event–on our campus, in our country, or the world–to make it visible by shining a light on it.

PC student Javyn Booth reflects on his journey to Phoenix College, his new role as President of the Black Student Union (BSU), and how he’d like people to honor Black History Month. His responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

Move to Phoenix

I went to college [to pursue a business degree in Hawaii] and wasn’t taking it too seriously. At 18, 19 [years old], school felt really slow. I didn’t believe in the school system to teach me what I needed to know about sales and hustling, but I always maintained a business mind. 

I dropped out, started living life, and working trying to make ends meet. Life wasn't going too well for me. COVID happened and I kept experiencing twists and turns. I felt lost, so I reached out to my uncle in Phoenix, who is a medical director. He encouraged me to see that you can have a good life in medicine and be there to help people.  He took me in and gave me perspective on how I wanted the rest of my life to go and the type of man that I want to be. There were conversations I would have with him where I didn’t have enough information to express my thoughts or my ideas. That was the inclination for me to go back to school and into the sciences. I wanted to learn more about how things developed, how we got here, and how we can maintain our health. And how I can be a knowledgeable asset for the people in my life. 

Black Student Union (BSU)

Going back to my first semester of college [in Hawaii], I didn't participate a lot. This semester I wanted to participate and get myself involved and be a part of a community. I found the BSU club and met the president at the time, Mimi [Mistura Owolabi], who has a very bright energy. She makes people feel welcome. She brought in such a broad mix of people. We all had a really great time doing projects together. In Fall 2023, I ran as Vice President and I lost, but Vashi [Dr. Worley], the coordinator of BSU, saw that I wanted to put in some effort. She allowed me to stay on with all the officers and participate as a second Vice President. This semester, I was nominated as President. I didn't feel like I knew enough to be the President, but people enjoy me being there and what I contribute. I am President this semester. 

Vision for BSU 

Right now, we're doing a lot of events for Black History Month. We're trying to be proactive and make sure the college allows us to celebrate and spread history. We're gearing up for recruiting new members. What I want BSU to be is a place for people to feel some type of connection to their ethnicity and their skin color, to feel safe and feel there are people out here who are putting in an effort to have a good social life, network, and make friends. Vashi does a really great job at making sure [students] have their space, that they feel like they can share their own opinions.  A lot of what we do is meet together, talk about the events that we’re coordinating, and then discuss more serious topics. We give everybody a space to express opinions and the things they're going through, which made people feel good last semester. I want people to feel connected, like they have a reason to keep coming to school. 

How PC could honor Black History Month

I would like to see a lot more cultural events involved in Black History Month, like jazz celebrations and social cookouts. I haven't been here long, so it's hard for me to know what PC has done, but there's a lot of Black culture that people don't get to see or enjoy. While Black culture is ever changing, and developing, there are things about our paths that aren't associated with slavery, that aren't associated with this need to fight back. We have a culture that people don't really know about, that’s not provided to people outside of the culture, in the right context, like the feeling of going to a jazz bar or going to an R&B [rhythm & blues] show. It's enlightening. In the urban [landscape], it’s a vibe, it’s an event. We can bring those events [to campus], in a responsible way, so people can celebrate those aspects of culture to get familiar with what black culture is, rather than focusing on us always having to fight back. 

Black culture and Latin culture

Latin culture has been through so much, an equal amount of trauma that Black people went through. Their culture is so ingrained, and full of pride, it might be easier to plan how to celebrate, how to do things, and invite [others]. Black people have that same [pride], but I feel it gets stereotyped. Because Black people might have grown up poor, [Black History Month] gets seen as something that's not for everybody, but it can be for all people, and it can be fun. 

I heard PC graduates had a mariachi band at graduation.  I'm proud of that. I'm proud that the school can represent its community. Jazz might need a little innovation, but I would like those ways of being to be more pronounced and associated with Black culture. I feel like people of other races don't get to see it, because they're not a part of it. People might know artists like SZA and Beyonce and Doja Cat, but I don't know if they know artists like Umi or Kota the Friend or artists like LA Russell who are doing active art that is building a community and trying to empower the people around them. 

I would like PC to be more explorative of Black culture, outside of what's known about the highly pushed narrative in the media right now. There's still so much more to us that people don't get to see. People would love it if they could see it. Media is so focused on negativity and things people are doing to get attention, it drowns out any celebration of our culture. 

The Future

I’m taking school one step at a time: get my degree, go to med school. I chose biochemistry specifically because I'm inclined to math and I enjoy chemistry. I want to know more about the human body and preventative health, and medicinal treatments as well. I want a formal education, an understanding of the effects of different drugs on the body and to learn more about the body's functionality and chemical processes. I'll decide what I want to specialize in after getting my degree. A medical director is going to take some time. I would like to go through a residency and work in a hospital. 

Celebrate Black History Month on campus by attending the Black History Legacy Luncheon on Wednesday, February 28, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or check out PC Library’s curated selection of books and media that honor the Black and African American experience. Find other events in the community on Student Life and Leadership’s Black History Month page.