On-campus organization gives support to Caribbean students

Briana Robertson, junior civil engineering student and President of the Caribbean student association, discuss collaborations and events such as bake sales and socials for the year.

Julie Sisler

Junior Briana “Bree” Robertson knows how to make an entrance.

She often comes in talking before the door has even closed behind her, and it isn’t long until the space she enters is filled with her infectious laughter or the wise advice she gives to anyone who asks.

“I would describe Bree as a sassy, chatty, hilarious and sweet friend,” Shante Smith, a friend of Bree’s, said. “She’s the type of person that would do anything for a friend while setting you straight and making you laugh at the same time.”

While those around her said her vibrant personality makes her stand out, many noted it is also her fierce dedication to her culture that makes her so unique.

“Her heritage is a big part of her everyday life,” her friend Jordan Saunders said. “She will make sure one of the first things you know is she is from Jamaica. Being Caribbean is something she is so proud of and loves—that’s what makes her who she is.”

Robertson’s friends said everyone who knows her realizes how important her origins are to her.

“Bree’s culture and heritage is everything to her,” Smith said.

Robertson was born in Negril, Westmoreland, before moving to St. Catherine, Jamaica. Robertson relocated to Louisville in 2012. Her mother still lives in Jamaica, and Robertson was able to return to Jamaica to visit her in 2015.

Throughout her life, Robertson said she has felt strong ties to Jamaica and its culture. Because of this, she enjoys discussing her culture and showing those around her what it means to her.

“What I love about Bree is that she is willing to share the many stories of her family traditions to others,” Robertson’s mentor, Torchia Rogers, said. “She understands the importance of sharing her cultural experience to offer a different perspective to others.”

Saunders said Robertson has multiple ways of showing her culture through her everyday actions.

“You will always see Bree with her Jamaican flag in her room and most of her pictures she takes,” Saunders said. “One of her favorite things to do is to put her name in your phone as ‘Bree the Jamaican’ with the Jamaican flag emoji.”

But to Saunders, the best way Robertson shares her heritage is through her cooking of Caribbean and Jamaican meals.

Robertson shares her culture with WKU’s campus through her work as the president of the Caribbean Student Association.

“Bree has taken initiative in the Caribbean Student Association serving as their president. She has shared traditional dishes, welcomed diverse speakers and initiated topic discussions,” Rogers said.

Robertson said the organization’s motto, “divided by water, united by culture,” describes it well. Robertson said she jumped on the opportunity to get involved with a group that shares the same values and passion as her.

“This organization is very important to me because it’s about the Caribbean culture, which I’m very passionate about, and us trying our best to teach the campus and community about it,” Robertson said.

CSA gets involved on campus through a variety of events such as its “Black Box” event every fall semester. Through this, students are given the opportunity to pre-order and enjoy a variety of Caribbean foods made by the members of the organization. CSA also hosts a “Dance Hall Zumba” event every semester. On top of these events, Robertson said it has a great deal of plans for the future of CSA.

Robertson also celebrates her heritage through her actions during Black History Month and beyond. She said she believes Black History Month is about more than just the past, but the future.

“It means representation of all the people in history that helped to paved the way for black greatness,” Robertson said. “It means motivation for young black people and inspiration for black children to see someone that looks like them to make a change.”

Robertson has celebrated Black History Month by posting about inspirational people on social media, which she said she is learning a lot from.

Robertson said she is eager to share her culture as a Jamaican, Caribbean and black woman.

“To be a black woman, to me, means being strong, being patient, being a support system, being proud, being hardworking,” Robertson said. “It’s to understand who you are, how you are perceived and using that as your fuel for greatness.”

Smith said she believes this is a description Robertson embodies with grace.

“Bree is definitely a strong black woman. She has her own mind, no one can influence her to do something that she doesn’t want to do,” Smith said. “She carries herself with grace and is not afraid to be herself around people. She knows she is beautiful, and she knows her worth.”

When Robertson walks into the room, anyone can see she brings with her a strong presence. But if one takes the time to ask, they will also see she maintains a passion for her heritage unequaled.

Features reporter Julie Sisler can be reached at 270-745-6291 and julie.sisler38[email protected]. Follow Julie on social media at @julie_sisler.