Black Student Union works to improve lives of African American students

Photo by Parker Robb | The Collegian Political activist and entrepreneur Kevin Powell describes the various qualities of true leaders in his keynote address at the closing Black and White Banquet of the 36th annual Big 12 Black Student Union conference on leadership March 2, 2013. The K-State BSU organization was named the most outstanding black student government council in the Big 12 at the event, the fifth time in the last seven years.

The Black Student Union has worked towards promoting the interests of African American students on campus since its inception in the fall of 1969. Named as the most outstanding undergraduate black student council in the Big 12 for the sixth time in the last eight years as of February 2013, the BSU has sought to stay true to its preamble and “become positive role models for future minority students” at K-State.

Creation of the BSU
Speaking about the historical need for a BSU, Brandon Clark, program assistant for the Office of Diversity and adviser to the BSU, said 1969 was a period with a lot of racial tension; a time where there was a small amount of black students on campus. As a result, the BSU was created as a means of promoting multicultural interests and give African American Students a voice on the K-State campus.

“We sensed the need to form a Black Student Union to help strengthen the African American community here, at least so the students who came here had a voice,” Clark said. “That is primarily how the Black Student Union started – it was a way to address the injustices that were happening on our campus at the time but also a way to advance African American culture and make sure that we have a diverse faculty and staff here on campus.”

This February, during black history month, Clark said he believes it is important to educate people about the contributions African Americans have made to American culture, as well as celebrate the rich heritage of African American culture itself, and that the BSU is an important aspect of doing so.

“I feel like we have a very rich history here in Manhattan, in America and K-State,” said D’Aonda Bush, junior in accounting and Spanish and current vice president of the BSU. “I think it’s important that people know where we came from and that it’s something to be proud of.”

Clark said he agreed with Bush, emphasizing the need to educate young African Americans and the community at large about African history.

“You need to be told more than you were slave, you were freed, there were civil rights and now we’re here,” Clark said.

Role of BSU
According to its mission statement, the BSU aims to, “focus on the development of the Kansas State community by advancing academic stability, political action, and the leadership of black students, while promoting Black culture across all aspects of life.” Clark said the objectives of the BSU and its means of realizing their mission have changed since its inception to reflect the current times.

According to Clark, the BSU’s immediate objectives are contacting and communicating with black students in the surrounding areas, encouraging enrollment at K-State, involvement with the BSU and other campus organizations, academic retention within the African American student body and the promotion of African American culture to the K-State body at large.

“We focus on helping black students academically, developing them and helping them grow in their leadership abilities and in case the need should ever arise, we are activists for black students and other multicultural groups on campus,” said Marcus Bragg, senior in management information systems and current president of the BSU.

Misconceptions about BSU
According to Clark, one of the misconceptions that the BSU is actively trying to dispel is that it is devoted solely towards the political interests of African American students.

“K-State is very much about family, and the black students on campus are a part of that family and they are not segregating themselves by being in an organization like BSU,” Clark said. “BSU helps them stay as a part of the family by providing them the resources where they can feel empowered and understood.”

Clark also added that contrary a popular opinion, the BSU is open to all cultures to be a part of and has had several non-African American members in the past.

Future Goals

Bragg said that future goals of the BSU include helping the African-American community at K-State develop academically, work towards the advancement of African Americans and multicultural students, and increase the amount of multicultural and black faculty at K-State.

“The faculty that we have now is great but they often don’t share our same experiences so there’s somewhat of a difference there,” Bragg said. “It also helps to raise the cultural competency of the students on campus and provides new perspectives.”

Bush and Bragg also spoke about working with other multicultural organizations at K-State to create space for a new multicultural center on campus.

“We are currently the only Big 12 school that does not have a building,” Bush said. “It will be a place where all students can come to and when they do come they can see the different cultures represented, spark awareness and raise questions and learn more about those cultures.”

Bush said that the new center will allow them to interact with students and other organizations on campus on a whole new level.

“We can only do so much out of a small room but I feel that with the building, with our history displayed, it can be more of a learning experience,” Bush said.

Bush also said that while the BSU has immediate goals, their bigger, overarching goal of promoting culture and helping African American students will always be a priority.

Whether it is through the advancement of multicultural interests on the K-State campus or working towards improving the lives of the African American population at K-State through its educational, cultural and leadership-driven initiatives, the BSU has an undeniably significant impact on campus life at K-State.