SARS protest

Event organizer Niya Denise McAdoo talks to student participants on Wescoe Beach during a demonstration on SARS.

Niya McAdoo, the newly elected University of Kansas Student Body President, has been an active voice for minorities, particularly Black people on campus, through their role as President of the Black Student Coalition and other activism. 

Growing up in Columbia, Missouri, with her mother Denise Anderson, McAdoo was kind-hearted and one to try and rescue animals or give to homeless people they’d meet, Anderson said. McAdoo also grew up reading about history and African-American leaders through her own research as well as a booklist her mother assigned to her.

“Even as a young child, she always had such a big heart for people and animals,” said Anderson. “She’s always wanted for people to feel loved and she’s always had a very giving and servant’s heart toward every community.”

Her mother regularly signed them up to volunteer in their communities from a young age. McAdoo organized a blue jean drive for abused women during her junior year of high school at Free State High School in Lawrence, Kansas.

McAdoo spent her first two years of high school at Blue Valley Southwest in Overland Park. Due to some family issues, she spent her last two years of high school moving from school to school. McAdoo’s senior year was split between two different schools, Hutto High School near Austin, Texas, followed by Olathe South, where she graduated. 

Although the schools she went to had a majority of white student bodies, she spent her time with the people of color in her school as well as those less fortunate than the affluent students who were in the majority. 

“The people I ended up becoming friends with were the other Black students there. There wasn’t a lot of us, so obviously we stuck together.” said McAdoo. “My white friends, you know, were those who maybe didn’t have as much money or just wasn’t really in with the popular crowd.”

During her time at Olathe South, an issue arose with black students wearing wraps, a historic culture piece for African-American people. The staff cited that wraps counted as a hat and there was a district policy against hats. However, when McAdoo called other Olathe schools, this wasn’t a policy.

McAdoo reached out to a person of color who was in a high position at the school and explained the situation. That person understood and sympathized, and a few days later, McAdoo and another student were called into the office and apologized to. 

“At the end of the day, for you (the faculty) to even approach me and ask me to remove something like that, it’s not only disrespectful but racist,” McAdoo said.

McAdoo received her associate degree in general studies at Highland Community College and transferred to KU in 2019. She started out as an art major living in Watkins Scholarship Hall but said she felt disconnected from the hall community. Eventually, she became a resident assistant at Downs Hall and now majors in African American studies as well as art.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, McAdoo saw the performative activism of the university followed by silence coming into the school year, she said. When a GroupMe was made surrounding the BlackatKU hashtag, she was added. This group spoke about their experiences as Black students at KU and organized chalking events as well as protests, like the protest at the Chi-Omega fountain in the Fall of 2020. Through this group chat, McAdoo met Keir Rudolph, and together they founded the KU Black Student Coalition (KUBSC).

Seeing McAdoo’s work, her friend Bryce Beck told her that she should run for Student Body President. After conversation with peers, McAdoo agreed to run for the position with Ethan Roark, the now KU Student Body Vice President.

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