The above image is of founders Amal Yamusah (Morehouse '14) and Amina Yamusah (Princeton '13)
Class Year: 2013
Residential College: Mathey
Eating Club / Sorority / Extracurricular Activities: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, RCA in Forbes, Princeton Association of Black Women.
Her Campus Princeton: If you had to choose one Princeton moment as the sole descriptor of your experience thus far, what would it be?
Amina Yamusah: I'd say that moment would be the first lecture I attended for Introduction to African American Studies. It was one of the first times where I was like..."wow, I'm really at Princeton!". Cornel West is an amazing professor and being it his class was a key experience in my time at Princeton. Attending one if his lectures is like going to Church...half the time I wanted to shout out "Amen" and I'm not even religious haha.
HCP: How, in any way, has life at Princeton surprised you?
AY: I wasn't expecting life at Princeton to be so crazy and hectic. There isn't much time to just relax and to put things into perspective. But it's amazing to be around so many people who are so ambitious and who motivate you to be your best and to push yourself to your limit.
HCP: So, what exactly is Breaking.It.Down and when did you decide to begin this project?
AY: Breaking.It.Down is a network aimed at connecting black college students with one another so that we can break down the barriers in our way! There are a lot of issues that black college students often deal with, whether it is choosing whether or not to apply to an historically black college, or dealing with the difficulties of being a minority at college. Through Breaking.It.Down, the hope is to connect black students with each other and with great resources so that we can make life at college easier and less stressful. We hope be for the young black and ambitious what HerCampus is for driven collegiettes! You can check out our blog at blog.breaking-it-down.com. Our official site, with a jobs boards, academic resources, and more, will be up and running soon!
HCP: Breaking It Down was a Semi-Finalist in the Entrepreneur Tiger Launch competition. How was that experience? What would you advice be to fellow Princetonians (or collegiettes in general) who are interested in taking part of college pitch contests in order to begin a career.
AY: Haha wow, it was such an adrenaline rush! I was one of the few women presenting, plus I was one of only two people presenting alone, and I was so nervous! My business partner (who happens to also be my little brother) goes to Morehouse College in Atltanta and I had to present in front of the judges and other competitors by myself. It was crazy, but I learned so much!
To any collegietes or Princetonians looking to enter a college pitch, I say go for it! It's difficult, its a little scary, but it is SO worth it. You will learn a ridiculous amount about starting your business and you will gain so much confidence. Just stay organized, work with your team and mentor, and you'll do great!
HCP: The idea of Princeton’s social atmosphere differs depending on the student, yet there have been a lot of sentiments about Princeton not being a welcoming community for black student (and in particular, black women). One of our past interviewees, Nneka Nwosu, mentioned that: “As a black female, I did at times feel left out from mainstream Princeton society.” How would you respond to that?
AY: I would definitely agree with Nneka. I am not in an eating club or on a sport team, so there are definitely times where I feel a detached from the Princeton social scene. Sometimes, it seems that the Princeton administration is so intent on promoting multiculturalism that it fails to recognize the needs of specific communities. But at the end of the day, I am having a good time at Princeton and I have found an amazing group of friends who are really supportive and understanding.
HCP: What do you think comes next (post graduation) for you?
AY: I will be working on Breaking.It.Down! I can't wait to put all the things I've learned these past three years into building Breaking.It.Down.
HCP: So now to our favorite question: who is your favorite Princeton alum?
AY: That's an easy one! Lisa Jackson, all day! She's the first black female head of the EPA, she has a graduate degree in chemical engineering from Princeton, and she is such a BOSS. As an environmental studies minor who is really interested in environmental law and environmental justice, she is a huge role model for me.
HCP: Finally, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned at Princeton?
AY: At Princeton, I've learned how to have faith in myself and how to accomplish the seemingly impossible (even if it means I operate on little to no sleep lol). I've learned to tell myself "Just breathe, and do it! Don't stress, because if you put your mind to it,you will get it done...you will finish that 30 page paper, you will finish your problem set, you will finish your agenda for your club meeting," and it usually works!