Black Student Alliance holds meeting amid rising racial tensions

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Black Student Alliance holds meeting amid rising racial tensions

Lilli Hime

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During their second monthly meeting, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) began their session with two questions: Is everyone okay? And does anyone need a prayer?

Questions like these are what BSA member Hailey Williams calls “check-ins,” a chance for members to share their feelings honestly in an open space. With increasing racial tensions and campaigns against police brutality in America, asking these questions is a way for the members to fight off feelings of marginalization and commiserate with others.

“We need a space to congregate and to mourn together and to discuss those things and ask each other: Are you okay?” BSA president Genevia Kanu said. “People are going to know at least in this space that it matters, that you matter, that your life matters.”

The student organization, which was on the brink of extinction, was revived and revamped when Kanu stepped in as president. After the deaths of black men Philando Castille and Alston Sterling lead to more protests, Kanu expressed deep feelings of isolation and distress because no one was talking about it. This made her realize the need for BSA to exist as a safe place for the black community.

“[BSA] means that I belong somewhere,” member Genesis Davies said. “My first semester here, I felt a little alone. I was maybe one of two black students in all of my classes, so it’s good to know that we can kind of congregate and be in an area where we all feel comfortable. It gives me an outlet.”

During the meeting, BSA accompanied their opening questions with an all faiths prayer. The organization then dove straight into the topic of the most recent police brutality killings, exploring how the events made members feel to discussing routine safety precautions for black students.

While the organization is predominantly black, it encourages a mix of all different races to get involved as a show of solidarity and respect.

“We do welcome people that are not black,” BSA secretary Deja Morgan said. “I truly think that the most important thing is that others are able to understand and be educated about black people. Hopefully by establishing respect between black and nonblack communities, we can begin to have these conversations that no one wants to have.”

At the meeting, they discussed how to dismantle the ‘loud black woman’ stereotype, how to broach the topic of race and a “Social Justice Journey” to Washington over spring break to see the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The organization’s upcoming events include a “Beignet Fundraiser” Oct. 21, a “How to be an Ally” panel made up of black and nonblack students Nov. 3 and a Thanksgiving potluck Nov. 15.