Meet Kingsley-Reigne Pissang, An Exceptional 2021 UW-Madison Graduate
At the heart of Kingsley-Reigne Pissang’s scholarship, leadership, and activism are her concerns about achievement gaps among African American males, issues of racism and exclusion at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and equity and inclusion in higher education generally, for which she has emerged as a spokesperson on campus and beyond.
In addition to obtaining degrees in Journalism, Strategic Communications and African American Studies, with a Certificate in Leadership, Pissang has served as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Wisconsin Black Student Union, co-chaired UW’s Black History Month committee, and contributed frequently to The Black Voice.
She shared what it meant to be AKA president.
“The Epsilon Delta chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Inc. was the first undergraduate sorority on UW-Madison’s campus and in the state of Wisconsin, carrying the legacy of style and grace back to 1968,” she told Watch The Yard. “To be a part of such a legacy was already an honor, but to be one of the few to call themselves president of such a resilient chapter is a privilege that I’m going to be able to have for a lifetime.
“Being chapter president has forced me to grow in ways far beyond just calling our meetings to order. It means taking the criticisms and opinions while putting in the extra mile to make sure that chapter business goes a little bit smoother than the semester prior,” she added.
An only child from Detroit, Pissang is a co-founder and the current president of the Student Inclusion Coalition (SIC). The campus group formed in 2019 to speak up about injustices and demand changes at UW. Ran by students, the group continues to strengthen their movement together, protesting and building a strong online following.
“UW-Madison gave me a platform to develop in ways that I don’t even think my ancestors dreamt of,” she says. “It’s truly been a ride but I’m thankful.”
Remarkably, she traveled to six countries during her time at UW-Madison.
“I’ve been to Malaysia for a leadership conference; studied abroad in Denmark; had a fellowship for journalism in Berlin; had a leadership trip in Israel; and presented my research on Black males in education in Canada and Ireland for the conference ICBME (International Colloquium on Black Males in Education),” Pissang said. “I also had four features in national publications … Not bad for a little Black girl from Detroit.”
Read more from this remarkable UW student:
UMOJA: Describe senior year amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Pissang: Considering this was my second senior year in a pandemic (being a fifth-year senior) I found that life moved on as “normal” but, but it was harder because I didn’t have the same in-person interaction with students and professors. I’m a student in the Journalism school which is heavy on group work and community, and I found myself really struggling to keep motivated.
UMOJA: What did this past year teach you about yourself that you didn’t know?
Pissang: I learned that I always have my best interest at heart and to never doubt that. I stood up for myself more than I have ever done in the past this year and although it took a lot of work… I was proud when I did each time. Despite my voice being shaky or how nervous I was.
UMOJA: Describe your most rewarding college experience.
Pissang: My most rewarding college experience had to be being the President of the Wisconsin Black Student Union and implementing a Sickle Cell Anemia blood drive that would help those in our community who suffer from the disease.
UMOJA: What is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do?
Pissang: I’m a big people person and I love my relationships I’ve formed with those in my community. Especially being an only child, I know that my legacy extends to my friends and not just me. So, the hardest thing would be being okay with letting people go and forging my own path regardless of those that the others may have taken.
UMOJA: Who inspires you?
Pissang: My ancestors would have to be my main inspiration. To see what our people have come through and still continue to do is nothing short of amazing. Being an Afro-Am major is one of the best decisions that I’ve made because it allowed me to learn about not only the trauma but the joy and brilliance from which we come from.
UMOJA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
UMOJA: How will you change the world?
Pissang: By living in my purpose and never limiting myself to what others expect from me.
UMOJA: If you had to start a nonprofit, what cause would it support?
Pissang: I want to start a non-profit for homeless people, families of color, and build houses for them so they can always feel safe regardless of their socioeconomic status.
(The University of Wisconsin-Madison contributed to this report.)