We chatted with author and WMU alumnus Jerjuan Howard about his new book, "A Message to Black College Students." Jerjuan recently returned to WMU for a book reading and discussion in Waldo Library on Oct. 14, 2021.
What inspired you to write "A Message to Black College Students"?
I wrote this book because I wanted Black college students to understand how big of a role they play in our communities and collective progression. I wanted to charge them with a responsibility to use whatever skill set they had for the advancement of the collective Black community because we desperately need it.
What was the writing process like for you?
The writing process was pretty natural for me. Essentially I put together a series of essays, and I looked up and had a chapter. I continued to do that until I felt the book was complete with my message. The book took about six months to write.
During your WMU career, you were a leader on campus as president of the Black Student Union. How did your experiences in this leadership role impact you as you wrote this book?
My experience as President of the Black Student Union shaped this entire book. I became President of BSU because I saw the need for improvement in Black student life on campus–improvement in academics, retention rates, graduation rates, economic holds, etc. I saw that Black students were dead last in a lot of these categories, and as a Black man, that did not sit well with me, so I took the position. I began to do everything I could to improve Black life, and I was willing to work with or against anyone in order for things to improve for us. I understand that there are steps to progress, and inside this book, I talk about how we can collectively progress if we understand a few principles and put those principles to use the right way.
As a Bronco alumnus, what’s your advice to students returning to campus after a year away due to COVID-19?
It's hard for me to give advice on anything COVID-19 related because everything is changing so quickly. I would just tell students to stay flexible and lean on their ability to adapt to different circumstances.
What’s next in your career and journey as a writer?
I'm unsure. I believe that this will be my first and last book. I never planned on being an author. I had a message that I wanted people to hear, and I had a lot of idle time due to the pandemic, so I began to write.
What do you most want readers and listeners at your Oct. 14 reading to take away from your work?
I want readers and listeners to feel empowered after Oct. 14. I want them to feel like they have the capacity to be direct changemakers in their community. I want them to understand the strength in collectivism, how important they are to their community, and the importance of building institutions with like-minded individuals.