Episode 24

Published on:

18th Oct 2023

Empowered Voices and Bridging Cultures with Jayla Taylor

Join us for a transformative episode with Jayla Taylor, a resilient junior at Marquette University. As president of the Urban Scholars Program and a political science major, Jayla's journey is a beacon of strength and determination. Hailing from Milwaukee's diverse neighborhoods, Jayla proudly embraces her Black and Latina heritage, using it as a driving force for change. Her upbringing, steeped in Mexican and Black traditions, fuels her mission to break barriers.

Through leadership roles, Jayla fosters a sense of belonging for students of color, ensuring everyone finds their place at Marquette. Her story is a testament to the strength passed down through generations, with her mother and grandparents serving as guiding lights.

Jayla's initiatives, including MU Black Minds, aim to create a community where every student thrives, regardless of background. Tune in for insights on inclusivity, cultural strength, and uplifting the voices of tomorrow. Jayla's narrative encourages us to stand together, fostering kindness, open-mindedness, and unwavering support.

Episode Highlights:

12:13 - The first step is, of course, getting people of diverse backgrounds here. But the second step is making sure that they can be themselves and be comfortable and not feel just outcasted.

19:25 - Not having those resources to fall back on can really impact your experience that you're going to have and not being able to talk to anybody about any issues you're having or understanding why you feel a certain way towards a certain class, teacher, professor,  and things like that is really important that we're having discussions with each other, so it's a you're not alone type of thing. And I think my biggest thing was if I didn't have a community around me, I would not be succeeding as well as I am now.

20:46 - I was given this opportunity, and it's important for me to make other people feel like they're also given an opportunity, and it also makes me feel good when I make somebody else feel important. And I think that just builds your community even more of people wanting to be around you, not having to be around you, and I wanted to be the role model around other students.


What's the story you'd like to share with us today?

01:24 - I'd love to share about my background growing up from the city, as well as more about my scholarship program and what that all entails.

How do you identify?

01:40 - I identify as Black and Latina. My mom is Mexican and my dad is Black, so, half and half.

Where do you come from?

01:50 - I've grown up on the south side of Milwaukee for the past 20 years.

What high school did you go to?

01:55 - I went to DSHA, Divine Savior Holy Angels. It's an all girls Catholic high school.

Tell us how you got on the path that you're on.

02:16 - It starts with my parents and my background. My mom is a first generation kind of citizen here. So, her growing up and upbringing was a little different than mine. None of my aunts, uncles or parents went to college. So, it was more of a high school graduation thing and then moving on to a family. But her main goal for all of us, me and my two older siblings, was always to go to college, get a career, and make sure we are doing what we love in life. But that just kind of motivated me to always kind of have a target on my back to push forward and find any opportunity I could. My dad also didn't go to college, so being a first generation kind of college student, they gave me the leeway to figure it out and navigate it all on my own.

03:59 - Luckily,  I applied and just with all the things I was involved in and just by chance, I ended up getting a financial aid scholarship to go there, and we have a 100 percent college rate at my high school, so there was no question on whether or not I was going to college after DSHA, and I got a lot of opportunities, but Marquette provided me with a full tuition scholarship to be part of the Urban Scholars Program as a minority student, and that was something I definitely could not pass up.

What other support do they provide first gen and students of color?

05:36 - Their whole goal was to have us have advisors that looked like us in the program. Considering it only had been five previously, they only had one academic slash–not only an advisor–but he was also like the whole running of the program, just that one person. But when they upgraded us to 45 people, we got three more academic advisors that we were split between. And they were there, basically, we had to check in one on one just to see how we were adjusting, not only academically, but also just campus-wise.

06:25 - We did a lot of group retreats together, a lot of group activities together, because the whole point was that these people around you, your fellow students, fellow classmates, are your family here.

You have a bi-cultural identity. Which traditions did you follow or was there a mix of traditions? For instance, did you have a quinceañera?

06:58 - Basically, in our household, you can identify however you want to identify. It's not like a this or that type of thing. We ate both types of food. Like, maybe we'll have tacos one day, the next day you can have a burger for dinner. Like, there was no set in stone, but it was awesome because I got to look at both sides of my culture all the time. So, fitting in with one was difficult. But getting older, it just made me realize how much I appreciate both sides and how much other people don't get to experience that. And I have a big appreciation for any type of cultural backgrounds that people bring with them, just because of how different and specific they are.

How has this bi-cultural identity influenced the choices that you've made and the path that you've taken?

08:17 -It's honestly a big motivating factor for me. I've written a lot of papers and things about it because I'm a big promoter of use your culture to your advantage. Like, in an oppressed society, I think it's really important that if you are a person of color, you use the advantages that you have for good and you use the benefits that are given to you to go forward.

I've always promoted myself in a way that was like yes, I am these cultures and they're a huge part of me but I'm also breaking a lot of stereotypes and a lot of barriers to  continue to excel in a lot of different areas.

How has the Mural Project resonated for you or in what ways has it?

10:03 - I think it's amazing just because I think a lot of time we promote or we talk about diversity or diversifying, but you don't actually see it. I think there's a difference between talking about things and then seeing them actually in person and having to face it. And I think it's also much more powerful because it's women.

10:39 - Seeing not only black, brown, and different colored women, but it's seeing a representation of yourself and then those around you, and the voices that are not getting heard as often or being promoted that you have nothing to do but face them and look at them, and see them and listen.

What impact do you see Marquette having on the lives of women of color?

11:03 - I think it can have a positive or a negative impact. I can't come and say like, "Oh, it's amazing and it's without struggles," because that just wouldn't be true. I've met a lot of amazing women in big, powerful positions at Marquette, which has been great, but it's also still a place where it's not as diversified as you would want to come in and see, and I think that's why it's so important to promote programs that are for different races and different backgrounds, because if you want this campus or this university to look a certain way, it needs representation.

That feeling that some students have, some faculty, and even one staff have of not quite feeling as though they belong or are welcome, is that strictly internal, something that they're bringing to the situation, or is there something about Marquette that creates those feelings?

12:44 - I think it can be a mix of both. Luckily for me, I went to a high school that was similar, diversity-wise, it was very similar. So, I had already experienced something like this, but I will say externally, like looking across and somebody says this is a PWI. You can tell. You can look across any classroom. You can look at any directory and you can tell that it's a predominantly white institution. Professor-wise, I would feel more comfortable going to a professor that looks like me or has a relatable story to me, and I've found many that are and are there to promote the connections that they bring to students of color, and there's a lot of programs.

13:43 - Internally, they're already feeling a sense of being different from everyone else. But then externally, if you're not seeing anybody else who looks like you, then it's just kind of furthering that insecurity within yourself.

How has the university impacted your sense of self-worth?

14:53 - It's impacted me just because any time that I felt insignificant or not as meaningful, I've had opportunities to go out in the community or I've had opportunities to give a speech to a group of people. With my leadership position being the president, I found such a self-worth type of thing because I was able to present this whole program. I represented it just in my one speech, what we encompass, what we embody.

You said your mother is your greatest inspiration. Who are some of the other women who have been inspirations for you?

16:06 - My grandma on my dad's side. They are like my other set of parents basically. They are so excited for me in anything I do. And I've actually had to talk about this before where it's amazing to have people, who succeed or not, they believe in you.

This year's forum, the theme really revolved around self-care, wellness, and healing, how do you understand, experience, or practice wellness and healing within our current context because there's so much stuff happening these days?

18:09 - There's a lot, and for me personally, it is hard to wrap my head around all the different initiatives, all the different feelings, all the different strategies you have, and things like that. And I've kind of been one of those people that I always like to talk first or get my point across, or kind of like get my hand in things, and I can say this is something that I've had to really sit back and like learn from other people, or go to events. I have a few friends who started their own club at Marquette, and it's called MU Black Minds, and it's a club specifically about self-care and mental health. And getting to go to that and knowing it was started by four African-American women, and they did it all there on their own, and they've had guest speakers, and they've had different program initiatives where we've simply wrote letters to ourselves, or this is the end of a school day and we came to learn more about mental health and things like that.

What impact do you hope to have on women of color, those coming behind you and those who have gone before you that might be looking back for some inspiration?

20:05 - I think my biggest thing is I'm everyone's biggest fan. I don't do the presidency thing so I can put it on a resume or I'm the president of this or I'm the president of that. That's just a bonus for me. I was in this position as well as a few other leadership positions in Marquette Student Government, NAACP, and just board member positions. I did that all because it just allowed me to promote the people that I'm around even more.

21:08 - The sophomores and freshmen under me, they're not that far apart in age for me. So, I don't pressure them into being like, "I know so much more than you." I really don't, but I'm here as your ally to let you know that I'm the person that you can talk to, find more stuff about, and reach out to because adults are busy.

What are your hopes for the future, your future, Marquette's future, the community we live in, the world?

21:11 - My hope is always, I, of course, want to somehow have one simple person in this program that I'm in remember me or simply the group of people that I was around and being the first group of 45 minority students, I'll be, of course, want to be a part of the group that was like, "Oh, you know, they did a lot here."

23:23 - And in the future, I, of course, want to teach. That is like my biggest thing is I love kids. And I think a lot of the initiatives we have at school is, why don't students know more about my background? Why don't they diversify? Why don't we have a diversity class?

What would you like our community to know about your journey?

24:33 - I think I would like my community to know that it doesn't end here. I think my biggest thing is I always just promote more positivity around me and other people. I think a lot of people need not only to learn from somebody, you can listen to a thousand things, but if you're going to get anything out of it, you got to be able to relate. So, hopefully they can just relate to being kinder to people, being more open to new stories, being more open to those around them, being more open to women, to people of color, to friends around you.

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The Our Roots Say That We're Sisters Podcast series was recorded and produced by Podcast Town (www.podcasttown.net)

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About the Podcast

Our Roots Say That We're Sisters
Marquette Mural Project
Welcome to Our Roots Say That We're Sisters podcast. This podcast series is sponsored by the Marquette Forum with support from Marquette University's Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the Haggerty Museum of Art. It's an extension of a Marquette University mural project to highlight and uplift diverse women associated with Marquette whose images and contributions have been systematically made invisible.