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The Black Student Union Commits to Making Campus Inclusive, through Black History Month & More

by Zoe DeFazio, Staff Writer

The Black Student Union is dedicated to advocating for all Black students to ensure their voices are heard on campus. The BSU strives to do this by empowering students, showcasing Black pride and embracing the history that makes Black beautiful. For Black History Month, the club was able to provide multiple events that illustrate the deep history and what it means to have Black pride. 

The BSU provides a safe space for Black students to voice their opinions, share intel and overall come together in unity. The BSU was created by Black students, for Black students to be able to discuss pressing issues, embrace their heritage, engage in a community of individuals with shared experiences and meet new friends.

Alexandria Nyala Pendergrass, the BSU’s event coordinator explained the BSU’s long-term plans to assist Black students.

“The BSU’s long-term goals are to be a hub where students of color turn when they are looking to meet new people, find resources catered to them, or just need an outlet to vent,” Pendergrass said. “We want students of color to always feel welcomed and included on campus.”

The BSU holds multiple events throughout the year for students to create a network of connections, have the ability to navigate career options, and even express political opinions. Events that are held often have guests of high influence, such as Misty Copeland.

Pendergrass notes that despite the club working towards the inclusivity of Black students on campus, the club is open to all students regardless of race and ethnicity. 

“We at the BSU, are always working on reaching more of the student body,” Pendergrass said. “Our focus and events are catered to POC but we welcome all races and ethnicities to join us. We know the more diverse our members are the better the conversation, events and overall club experience will be.” 

Marshall Strawbridge, the co-Vice President of the BSU expressed how he wants to navigate the club going forward. Strawbridge discussed his advocacy towards Black students and how the BSU has the ability to create a change at MC. 

“I want the BSU to be a central driving force behind organizing and advocacy on campus,” Strawbridge said. “Yes, for Black students on campus in particular, but I believe our work is crucial to enhancing the college experience for all students.” 

The changes that the BSU hopes to make are in line with the Lasallian values, such as an inclusive community and respect for all while providing an education. Strawbridge finds that the club is able to best accomplish this in a virtual format. 

“My primary contribution to the BSU has been getting our leadership to imagine what it means to be a club given the challenges presented by the pandemic,” Strawbridge said. “Fortunately for us, we don’t have to make a transition to a virtual format, so we really have had the freedom to pursue ideas that wouldn’t be possible in an in-person setting.” 

Ashley Baptiste, the co-Vice President of the BSU shared her feelings about how the BSU felt to make Black History month a priority and why the need for multiple virtual events to occur. 

“For BHM we wanted to make known the importance of the month and the contributions that we have made as a community,” Baptiste said. 

Black History Month is an important event for the Black community that exudes pride and passion. This month is dedicated to the meaningful history behind what it is to be a Black person in the United States. It was important for the BSU to commemorate this month in order to make Black students feel welcomed at MC, and to display diversity on campus. 

Although Black History Month is in February which is the shortest month of the year, the time frame didn’t stop the BSU from putting their all into planning a month filled with activities and virtual events with notable guests for the campus community. 

Pendergrass explained the numerous opportunities the BSU was able to provide during Black History Month. The start of the Month, the BSU partnered with the Multicultural Center to hold the Black History Month Opening Ceremony. The ceremony included announcing Black excellence awards and listening to speaker Misty Copeland. 

Misty Copeland, the principal dancer from the American Ballet Theatre, discussed what it’s like to be a Black woman in the arts and was able to inspire Black students to chase their dreams.

Pendergrass also mentioned the other events that had influential guests of Black heritage, such as a virtual talk with New York State Representative Jamal Brown. 

Strawbridge also chimed in on how the BSU has been going through great lengths to ensure that Black History Month didn’t go overlooked.

“We are also hosting an artist named Andrea Ballo who will share her journey as a Black creative all while doing a live illustration,” Strawbridge said. “We were very much looking forward to this. We’ll also be partnering with Just Peace to host a conversation on Racial Justice at Manhattan College.”

The BSU’s mission is to provide a space that is inclusive, diverse, and caters to the Black students here at Manhattan College. Black History Month was a success here at MC all because of the great lengths the BSU went through. Although COVID may limit the club’s progress, they are still committed to bringing inclusivity to MC. 

“We want members of this club to have a safe space to converse and relax,” Baptiste said. “We are moving forward with this goal but it has become a prolonged process due to COVID precautions.”