BSU celebrates 50 years of supporting studentsBy Annie Hollon | 02/28/2018 10:25pm
Founded in April 1968, the Black Student Union has served as an advocacy organization for black students for 50 years now and is the first and oldest minority student organization at UA.
To commemorate this milestone, the UA BSU will host a weekend-long celebration April 19-21, which will include a variety of events, from a talent show to the Black and White Gala. The gala will feature performances from students in the Dance and Theatre department, Music School and African American Literature program, meant to highlight “the best and brightest” African- American students, according to a letter sent to the Black Faculty and Student Association by vice president Darnell Sharperson. The weekend’s events hope to connect the alumni and current students through celebration.
“We are inviting all of our alumni back, all of our leadership,” said BSU president Candace Allen. “So what we are hoping to do is have our students celebrate but also have our alumni come back, enjoy the A-Day game, but also see the changes that have been made on campus."
From the beginning of the semester the BSU has been celebrating the longevity of their organization, and the theme has been centered around the upcoming anniversary. BSU adviser and associate dean of students Stacy L. Jones, who has been involved with the BSU since the 2000s, has noticed a trend about the amount of students who are drawn to the organization from the beginning of their time at the University.
“We attract a lot of freshman and new-to-UA students who could be transferring freshman because it is one of the places you are introduced to during the Week of Welcome,” Jones said.
Allen said that the need for a BSU is still here – despite people questioning the need – as a means of giving black students a direct line of communication to the administration.
“It’s not black students united against everybody, it’s not black students united and no one else is invited,” Allen said. “It’s the union of black students specifically to address some of those needs that occur in the black community, but it’s also a union of black students that helps them feel more comfortable to branch out into the rest of Capstone community.”
When it comes to controversy that directly impacts the black community or involves them in some way, many sometimes look to the BSU for a response. The executive board and administrators stay aware of the facts and issues, discussing the information so that they do not get blown out of proportion. Jones said that their role is important in communicating to administrators and preparing to react to events accurately, although this faces criticism from some.
“They get criticized because some people think that they are not radical enough, that they should always be marching in the streets, or sometimes people might think that they are too radical, but they really talk through things, and they want to know how what they do reflects their entire constituency,” Jones said.
As an organization whose core values revolve around activism, alliance and achievement, the BSU is largely influential on campus, with its own mentoring program and outreach to a variety of organizations on campus. As the BSU finishes their celebrations, Allen said she wants the BSU to be a place for open communication between all kinds of students.
“When students develop relationships with other students, it’s a lot easier for them to get things done and for conversation, and things to be a lot clearer than when you are trying to bridge a gap with someone that you don’t know at all,” Allen said.
“The more collaborative BSU is, the more other organizations reach out and we start to bridge the gap between BSU and Panhellenic, BSU and other major specific organizations.”