GUEST COLUMN: Being a Black student and rapper at NIU

“Bubble Boy” by Jalen Smith

Jalen Smith, Guest columnist

Hello my name is Jalen Smith, also known as Visionary J. Being a Black person is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. We have a very unique experience in this life, and a history of so many triumphs. We experience racism, systemic oppression and much more. We’ve invented so much rich culture and continue to do so. 

As a student at NIU, I’ve learned that everyone is unique and is also in their own particular bubble. A bubble that I personally call “The Twilight Zone” — a bubble where life experiences, whether social, academic or opinionated are met with many new and different people. When I first came here, I was surprised at the culture shock I would endure. 

Being an art major, I would usually be one of a few Black students in a class. My first year I took a privilege test in a UNIV course with my classmates and realized that everyone there had a vast amount of privilege that I didn’t. It opened my eyes to a new reality where people might not see past their own experiences, let alone even understand mine. I didn’t let that discourage me; I pursued making music as a rapper and continued to make more of a name for myself. 

My first year I released my debut album “Apple Juice Is Better Than Orange Juice,” and my junior year I released my follow up album “Jalen.” Now that I am close to graduating during a pandemic, I will say it’s a bittersweet feeling.