A recent study by the Young Invincibles revealed that Black college students have the same chances of getting a job as a White college dropout. Amina Yamusah, founder of Breaking.It.Down, a network committed to helping Black collegians achieve, connect and engage. The organization has a special mission to help build a self-supporting community for Blacks striving for excellence, while also connecting them with opportunities. Amina graduated from Princeton in 2013 and founded the company while still an undergraduate. We both went to Princeton together and were friends before college so it was interesting to hear of her company’s efforts based upon her own experiences as a student.
MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to start Breaking it Down (BID)?
Amina Yamusah (AY): BID came from my own feelings of feeling unsupported, isolated and failing as a college student. During my sophomore year, I was in four tough classes and I knew if I didn’t study my butt off, I was going to fail. In the midst of that, I started to panic. I didn’t have an internship yet. I felt like I wasn’t giving enough back to the freshmen who were struggling. I thought about solutions and how I could take action. All the people who I could think of who were always having my back were the Black students around me. If we all reunited and shared the resources and knowledge we had, we could be so much more powerful.
MN: How did you come up with name ‘Breaking it Down’ ?
AY: We wanted something that was representative and that anyone can relate to as a person of color. We played on the idea of breaking down our resources, the ways that people connect, and the barriers between Black college students and the opportunities they have access to.
MN: What makes BID so valuable?
AY: Breaking It Down is focused entirely on opportunities. We’re filling a need with two groups that have really struggled communicating with each other and to have successful and trustworthy relationships. We’re always going to be promoting everyone to pursue their own businesses build their own wealth. Black-owned businesses can really benefit our community.
MN: What are some of the disparities in the recruiting world for Black candidates that you’ve found?
AY: It’s been a ride seeing recruiters telling me there isn’t a lot of Black talent. At Princeton, I know firsthand talented Black computer scientists who are not getting recruited by top organizations like Google or Twitter. These are people who are objectively intelligent using the modern ways of measuring intelligence. Are they incompetent too?
Look at the challenges Black men face in the hiring process based off their name. There was a 2003 Devah Pager study that showed when Black men submitted their resume, they had the same chances of being hired as a White man with a criminal record. The conversation gets so skewed. We get stuck in a conversation about the natural pipeline and the lack of a pool of talented people of color. That’s wrong! We have a worse chance of getting access to opportunities, although it costs less to hire us.
I don’t want to focus on the negative numbers or the struggles that African Americans often face. It makes it seem that we are lacking and that we have this inherent disadvantage and flaws that are screwing us. That’s not what’s happening. There’s bias. We need African-Americans banding together and saying that we have our own network. We have our own social capital. I want to shift the focus to “How do we help each other?”