For many people, the fall season is when seasonal hibernation comes in. The Gateway U block party came through with the festivities. The community gathering was the perfect introduction to this fall season. With the food truck feeding the neighborhood folks, the giant Jenga causing arguments, the ball pit for kiddies, and the mechanical bull waiting to see who has riding skills.
Saymah Nah, the director and founder of Gateway U, was in attendance, ensuring things went on without a hitch. Being the beautiful socialite, she gave us a few minutes of her time to expound on what the mission of Gateway U is, what it means to her and what it means for the community she is building.
Gateway U is a non-profit organization targeted to inner-city youth, making college accessible to all. The journey for Saymah and Gateway U started when the Newark native went to Howard University to come back “with something in my hand” to give back to “t he people that look like me.”The executive director made it a point to ensure that she gives out the same opportunities she received during college. Growing up in the Spires Projects on First Street, she knew she was the “token.” Nah wants to erase the “token black kid’’ trope and encourage her community that higher education is accessible to all.
Nah shared how white supremacy is part of the reason for this “token child” stereotype and how dangerous this mentality can be. “We are not choosing just one, nah, we all can be golden,” says Nah with her curls flourishing. She further explains that her idea of a Gateway U being a “hybrid college” can be “fully accessible and fully affordable.”She hones in the idea of being emotionally available for those who choose Gateway U to further their education. With mentorship available, she emphasizes that being from such neighborhoods, “we know what’s going on, we know what they battle.”
Individualism is also encouraged, considering Gateway U is not trying to “choose your path.”
“Whether you choose a trade, it is completely fine. Whether you choose a degree, it is completely fine. But having the access and making sure everybody, no matter what color, no matter where you are from, it's having access to get it. That’s what it’s about. We provide coaching to our students to make sure they got that one on one support, but not just academic rights, personal too. To make sure you are good on the inside and make sure you are good mentally.”
In her athleisure outfit and honey dripper name plate necklace, She made these points:
“That's interesting, right? Number 1: I want to feel good and feel comfortable. I think that’s what matters first but second, and it is what it is right; optics matter. I ain’t gonna hold ya; optics matter. I think what I want to present to my students is I want you to come as you are, so in order for them to come as they are, I need to come as I am. I need to be comfortable. I need to be chill and relaxed. You can come and talk to me. That stuff matters with people. Optics matter, but what are you trying to do? Are you trying to do corporate? Maybe athleisure wear isn’t for you. That's my rule of thumb. I tell all my students that—optics matter. You have to decide what that looks like and if you want to bite that bullet or not. Thereare things you’re going to have to compromise because I don’t think we are here as a society yet. We are definitely pushing it, but I don’t think we are there as a society yet, and that's just real.”
With the DJ playing Jersey club favorites, the neighborhood of Downtown Newark was entertained as the line to get information for Gateway U was starting to get full. That was the point of this block party.
“The block party was to increase visibility for Gateway U, and we wanted to make sure people knew about Gateway U. We wanted to let them know what we offer and also to bring the community together. Teacher’s Village, William Flats, everybody around this area to come out and have a good time. Of course, our people too.”
For more information on Gateway U; please visit: https://www.gatewayunewark.org/