J-School student Lily Cross was selected for the Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion Award by the ASMSU Senior Class Council.
Cross is a graduating senior and President of the MSU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. She is also a student assistant in the ComArtSci DEI office, a position she has held since her freshman year.
Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Cross took to social media to raise awareness of racial injustices and provide a platform for her followers to engage and express their frustrations. Cross started using Canva, a graphic design platform, to make visually appealing and informative graphics during this period.
“When George Floyd was killed, I made a space on my own Instagram because it’s hard to express your frustrations to elders or family members and they don’t want you to protest, or it becomes really difficult to assess the situation and be on the same page about it.”
“I feel like if we can like each other's birthday pictures and stuff like that, we should be able to support each other in deeper conversations.”
She organized Zoom calls for open discussions.
“I had 5 different days of Zoom calls and I basically structured them around protesting, the importance of supporting businesses, the importance of voting, advocating for social justice, and the power and the privilege of media and unity. Those were the topics that I wanted to touch on.”
Com Arts DEI Director Dr. Lauren Gaines Mckenzie took notice of Cross’s work on Instagram and offered her a position in social media for the office. Having left East Lansing three months before because of the pandemic, Cross valued having a close connection to the university despite being home in Miami, Florida.
Since June 2020, Cross has worked on making content for the Com Art Sci DEI social media accounts despite being nearly 1,500 miles away in Florida during the next fully remote school year. Cross, like many students, returned to campus for her junior year beginning in August 2021.
“From there I was able to create informative posts and spotlight celebrations of diverse backgrounds. We can kind of just embrace all there is to appreciate about diversity on social media, for students who may feel underrepresented or out of touch with the college and just bring some light to it. I took my posts very seriously and tried to include fun GIFS and tried to make it interactive.”
Cross was able to combine the skill sets she learned from the J-School and apply them to the committee’s goal of informing students of the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“When you’re doing work that you deeply appreciate and care for, you try to elevate it in any sort of way that would bring value to the College of ComArtSci. You just do it out of the grace of your heart, and I was never doing it to be recognized or to have some sort of valor added onto the work I do.”
After graduation, Cross plans to pursue a master’s in interactive design – journalism. Although still undecided on where she will attend, she has already been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
By Matt Dwyer