Jacqueline Musa Musiitwa, 1999
Authored by Anisha Dhungana ’21 in “Beyond the International Festival, the Lives of Black International Students at Davidson College“
last updated 02.10.2021
To find any record highlighting a Black international woman at Davidson, we have to fast forward to 1999 when Jacqueline Musa Musiitwa began her first year at Davidson College. Originally from Zambia, Jacqueline entered Davidson at the turn of the century with passion and drive. She was involved in multiple international-focused student groups, including the Student Advisory Committee, Model United Nations and Davidson International Association. She took advantage of multiple Davidson grants and travelled to South Africa for an internship, Barcelona for a conference, the U.S./Mexico border for research, and studied abroad in Switzerland and India (“Alumna Focus” 2015). With all of her academic success and extracurricular involvements at Davidson, this photo shows a different, amused and relaxed side of Jacqueline that one would not picture after reading about these achievements, and especially would not after learning about all of her career successes.
In the photo, Jacqueline is smiling mid-bite as she eats pizza with her friends. From the caption of the photo, it indicates that this was a first year hall bonding event as she lived on second Belk, a mixed-gendered hall. She is at-ease, posing with her pizza in hand in between four white men who are all smiling. Your first year hall is one of the first places and ways that you make friends at college. Living in such close proximity to everyone greatly deepens the bonds between one another and helps create a sense of community, especially with Davidson’s tradition of the flickerball tournament which is played against other halls.
While the gender ratio at Davidson is currently close to equal, it was not like that for a very long time, and is even less equal when taking an intersectional approach and considering race, gender and immigration status. As a Black woman, but also considered “international” – which is seen as its own racial demographic – it can be difficult to live amongst the different classifications and categorizations that are placed on to you. Jacqueline and her male friends in this photo could represent this specific, multi-identity based ratio; one Black, international woman for every four white men on Davidson’s campus. In Jennifer Nash’s Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality, she argues for a Black feminism that is inclusionary and intimate and is a coalition between other women of color. Just as the arguments and discussions of Africana studies’ diasporic lens follows, Black feminism also needs to free the territorialization between the subject and movement, especially given the distinct experiences of global Blackness interwoven with patriarchy, embodied through the lives of women like Jacqueline.
Through all of her hard work and perseverance, Jacqueline has established herself as one of the leading international lawyers in Africa. As someone who grew up in Zambia but moved to the U.S., she says that she always wanted to return to Africa and continue her work there. After finishing a job at a law firm, she decided to open her own law firm, Hoja Law Group, that, as mentioned earlier, helps clients interested in investing and doing business in Africa. She uses her knowledge on development, Africa, and policy work that she learned through her extracurriculars, her own interests, and experience at Davidson to help investigators navigate Africa. With offices in Kigali, Rwanda, and New York City, Jacqueline has earned various different fellowships, such as the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow of the African Leadership Institute, the New Voices fellow, and advising positions from the Word Trade Organization to the Rwandan Justice Ministry.
She shares in an Alumna Focus article written about her that her experiences at Davidson were the building blocks and foundations of her interests into this issue. She left Davidson confident, in herself and her future, and how could she not with all of the experiences she gained under her belt (“Alumna Focus” 2015). However, even though she has become a leading figure in social enterprise, development, and entrepreneurship in Africa, there is hardly any information about her or her contributions at Davidson and beyond, other than the “Alumna Focus” piece mentioned earlier. In fact, of all of the Quips and Cranks editions during her four years here, only two had pictures, features and only one had her solo yearbook photo of her. They also misspelled her name, using two names interchangeably: Muna Musiitwa and Muna Musitawa. While it was clear that Davidson did see promise in her future and ideas through the various grants she received, they did not even think to make sure her name was spelt right. A name carries a lot of meaning, and especially for people of African descent who have been forced to change their names, assigned new ones, and whose names are constantly mispronounced, it is more than just a name. While it is understandable if a person is not in the yearbook, as discussed in relation to the previous photo, it is the jobs of the editors to find these faults in names and spelling errors, of which there were a couple concerning African-country names.
Jackqueline has propelled herself, by sheer determination, as an established professional in international law. Since her time at Davidson, her passion for development coupled with her own experiences growing up in Zambia influenced and inspired her into this work. Very rarely are Black, African women highlighted in the media or in the Davidson archives, and Jacqueline is definitely a figure that deserves the spotlight and someone who is going to continue developing herself, her firm and Africa.