The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.




Claire Heininger | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Terri Baxter realizes that talking often falls short of bringing Notre Dame’s black students out of the campus background. So instead, she sings them into the spotlight. As president of Voices of Faith, Baxter leads the gospel choir’s efforts to offer a setting where black students can express themselves and white students can learn to appreciate a different sound.”With Voices, gospel music is traditionally African-American – it’s not Catholic, it’s what you know from home,” Baxter, a junior, said. “You get to move and rock and be happy and singing to the Lord.” Even students who didn’t grow up with gospel music quickly feel at ease, she added. “A lot of Caucasians are enlightened when they hear it. It comforts them.”Baxter emphasized that since the choir is “spiritually based,” it “has no color line” and is open to students of all races. However, it does attract mostly African-Americans, reflecting the trend of perceived exclusivity among black students – a trend that Baxter resents.”People always ask, ‘So why do you all sit together in the dining hall?'” Baxter said. “The reason is it’s comfortable. It’s important to see someone who looks like you and to relate to them. … And African-Americans can relate on the level of skin color.”The need to see that skin color in positions of achievement contributed to Baxter’s decision to co-found Shades of Ebony, a current issues/community service club for black female students. “People need to see people who look like them in education, on TV, in politics,” she said. “On the professional level, black women tend to be a higher percentage than black men … and black women here need to be unified.”Through her leadership in both groups, Baxter gained a positive outlook on the future of black students at Notre Dame. “It really is a microcosm of the real world – we might be the only minority there when we enter higher professions, just like now we may be the only minority in most of our classes,” Baxter said. “That may be the situation, but it shouldn’t be the situation … The world is changing, and Notre Dame recognizes that.”