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Student’s Dream Shines Light on Others

Inonda Peterson, student-athlete, organizer, poet, dreamer

Inonda Peterson has lots of dreams.

“Dreams on dreams on dreams,” she said. “My biggest dream is to continue pushing in all that I do, never give up, and believe in myself so that I can help other people believe in themselves. I think that is why we are put on this earth: our purpose is to help other people.”

A Mitchell College student-athlete majoring in psychology, Peterson runs on the cross-country team and plays on the women’s basketball team. Despite a very busy schedule, the first-year student is also the force behind “Letting OUR Voices Be Heard,” a campus event celebrating Black History Month. The February 25 community event brings together dozens of Black performers and artists and Black-owned businesses to showcase Black excellence, especially for a younger generation.

“When I was growing up everyone I saw in the media who was deemed powerful was white. Through this event, I want to show the younger generation of people who look like me that they can be whoever they dream of being, despite racial limitations or what mainstream media says they can or cannot be because of the color of their skin.”

She points out that the event is for the entire community—all ages, skin colors, and backgrounds.

“Everyone can have a chance to be educated on Black culture and society and learn how they can better help support the Black community in ways they didn’t know before,” she said.

Last year Peterson launched a business called InondaWrites, LLC, with a mission to give a voice to those who have been silenced by pain. One of her projects (in addition to the event) is a book of poetry entitled “Till Death Do Us Part,” which depicts the stages of grief after heartbreak. It is intended for anyone, regardless of gender, race, or age.

Her own heartbreak came from a relationship with a boy that began and ended in high school.

“When you get into a relationship, sometimes you tie your identity to that person and forget who you were prior to them. You feel like you can’t live without them,” she said.

Power of Poetry

To work through her heartbreak Peterson turned to poetry, which she started to write at age 14 “after a dramatic life-changing situation” altered her view on life.

“I was embarrassed to talk to other people about my pain, so I started to write all my feelings down. I shared my writing with my auntie who helped me realize I was writing poetry. I was never labeled ‘a writer’ by my friends, just an athletic person. I was never an A+ student and got a lot of detentions. The day I found out I could write poetry changed my view of myself.”

Peterson said poetry gives someone a chance to explore emotions in a free place without fear of judgment.

“Poetry gave me a safe place to say everything that I ever wanted to say out loud on paper and to reason with and understand my emotions. That’s when I was finally able to heal. I want my poetry book to provide an outlet for others to say, ‘That’s how I feel. If she was able to heal, I can find the same light and heal.’”

Inspired by Faith

Her poetry also helped her discover that she didn’t need someone else to make her feel happy, to feel joy, or to succeed.

“All I needed was God,” she said. “The book explores and finds faith in darkness and heartbreak.”

Peterson said her faith also inspired her to conceive the Letting OUR Voices Be Heard event.

“God gave me the vision and helped uplift it and didn’t leave me. He helped bring people into my life that believed in the mission as well.”

Among the many people who have supported Inonda in her endeavors at Mitchell is Professor Kevin Booker, who teaches Peterson’s public speaking class. She pitched the event idea to him, and he encouraged her to make an event proposal and get people from around campus to join in support. (Peterson notes that from the greater community State Rep. Anthony Nolan also encouraged her, and she is especially grateful to community partner, mentor, and biggest supporter Lisa Ann Curtis who “has become like my family and has been like God’s angel in human form guiding me.”)

Coming from Houston, TX, Peterson chose Mitchell College as a way to “further expand my horizons to put myself out there and do something I never thought I would do.” She said her parents were “a little scared of me coming this far, but now that they see how I have adjusted to this community in a short amount of months, they’re really happy for me!”

She views Mitchell College as a place of opportunity, and she has jumped in feet first.

“You find yourself in a community that doesn’t judge you but accepts you for who you are. You can explore things that you like and may not like. You can be OK with failing because the professors will help pick you up and help you understand that you can do it, you don’t have to give up, you are not dumb, stupid, or anything people may label you. People can come here, be comfortable in their own skin, and explore their unique differences in a safe place.”