Changing the community: Barika Johnbasia honors international community as president of the African Student Association
The decision of junior business advertising major Barika Johnbasia’s father to move his family to Nigeria was one that would shape his son’s life forever.
Barika was eight years old when his family finally moved, and having been born and growing up with his siblings in Tallahassee, he said making the change from living in the U.S. to Nigeria was a massive culture shock.
However, his father was motivated by a desire to connect his children with his roots and for Barika’s family, he said honoring Black culture meant not only cherishing the traditions of the past, but living them.
During the eight years he spent in Nigeria, Barika found himself heavily influenced by soccer, where he often watched the sport as a child and played competitively with his friends as he grew older. He said his mind was set on becoming a professional soccer player given the prevalence of the sport in the country, but various injuries he accumulated over his time playing ended his dream.
Although he felt discouraged that he could no longer pursue his passion, Barika’s mother did not allow him to feel dejected for long. Reflecting on the support she gave him in that moment, he said his mother’s staunch unwillingness to let him give up on himself was foundational in his journey to college.
“I was going through a lot because I used to get injured a lot and I was going through this phase where I’d just give up on anything I wanted to do, and soccer was one of the only few things that I actually enjoyed doing. She motivated me by telling me that in life, there’s going to be a lot of challenges you go through but you just [have] to keep on pushing forward and moving just one step at a time,” he said.
“That’s one of the things I always carry because even in the future, in anything I do outside of soccer, events, the African Student Association and anything else I do, I try to push forward and make sure I complete the task. I always make sure to achieve what I want to do in honor of her because she taught me to be a person who doesn’t like coming in second place.”
USF’s rich African student population was something Barika found surprising his freshman year, and interested in connecting with others who shared experiences like his own, he decided to join the African Student Association (ASA).
It was not long after he joined that Barika ran and was accepted for social media manager, and during the spring 2022 semester, he was elected to the presidential seat.
What differentiates Barika from other leaders is his commitment to serving international students and communities outside of ASA, according to junior biomedical sciences major and ASA chief of operations Jamil Seidu.
In addition to fostering a sense of unity and always reaching out to fellow African students, Seidu wrote that Barika’s eagerness to give back to his honorary home country through volunteer work makes him nothing short of a strong advocate for ASA.
“I think the role [Barika] has played in ASA has impacted others in a way where people respect all the efforts he puts in. I believe the impact he has been providing is inspiration and motivation because he visibly does so much for the organization, and … (it) has impacted people not only within, but outside of ASA,” he wrote.
“We’ve had conversations about how he has desires to give back to people in our community, and how he wants to use his platform in ASA as a way to reach out and help these people and he’s also made it his dream to give back to Nigeria. I’ve been impacted positively by his mindset of wanting to help others … and Barika’s goals and aspirations push me to be a better version of myself.”
Having an organization as diverse as ASA is not only beneficial to African students, but USF’s international community at large, according to Barika. In his work as president, he said he constantly works to develop education for international students on where to find scholarships and internships when coming to the United States.
Given the difficulties international students often face with affording housing and other essential resources, Barika added that he’s also planning to add a guide on how to find job opportunities to the club’s programming.
Providing a space for African students to come together is vital for honoring Black history, according to Barika. When assessing the work of ASA and other Black cultural organizations on campus, he said he hopes students will feel inspired to push for change that enriches USF’s Black community.
“A lot of people feel like they’re not able to make change, they don’t push forward or they just stand by and complain, and there’s times like this where we have the power to actually make change. I say if you stand up and push forward to make change, the change will come and during Black History Month, this is really, really important,” he said.
“We remember all the people in the past that pushed for that change … they had a goal in mind and now it is our turn to push forward and fight for that same change because there’s still a lot to fight for. That’s why .. there’s a lot of things that we’re pushing for, and there’s a lot of things that need to be accomplished in order to help better the Black community on campus.”