This week, Kansas State’s Black Student Union hosted its annual My Black Is Beautiful Week.
Cara Bruce, junior in social sciences, said this year’s events were more difficult to organize than in the past. While Bruce said the week went well for the most part, BSU faced some challenges because of COVID-19 and university regulations.
On Sunday, BSU hosted a come-and-go study session to advance the academic stability mentioned in its mission statement — “to encourage and progress Black students to study.”
Bruce hoped to have pizza at the study session as a fun and inexpensive meal, but she said K-State denied the request despite her efforts to explain how BSU would keep the process sanitary.
“Instead, I had to pay $80 on a sandwich platter from Jimmy John’s,” Bruce said.
Wednesday was meant to be a “Trunk-or-Treat” event, but BSU was forced to cancel the event because of Riley County’s COVID-19 regulations.
“This activity was to spread positivity to local Manhattan youth as well as opening up dialogue between Manhattan high school BSU and K-State BSU to sponsor a mentorship between the two organizations,” Bruce said.
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In lieu of the intended event, BSU members dropped off the candy for the “Trunk-or- Treat” at the Boys and Girls Club.
Bruce said the university is making it difficult for nonprofit organizations to come together on campus. There were many “road blocks” during the planning process, including the inability to meet on campus, she said.
“Being from a marginalized community, I saw this as very alarming because when you are in a marginalized community, and you are not able to meet in person, it feels as if you are by yourself,” Bruce said.
As a former member of the K-State track team, Alyssa Harris, freshman in animal sciences and industry and pre-vet, said it’s frustrating to have to jump through so many hoops for BSU events because of COVID-19 regulations.
“I have seen both sides … I see what [athletes] are given, and leaving, joining BSU, I see the struggle just to get the bare minimum,” Harris said. “It hurts.”
Despite the struggles of planning My Black Is Beautiful Week, Harris said she was impressed by the turnout and quality of interaction that occurred at the events.
Monday was all about meditation, with one BSU member teaching a yoga class via Zoom, and Powderpuff Tuesday gave participants a chance to get out and get active.
Harris said Monday created a fun bonding experience seeing other BSU members and the instructor going through all the moves.
Thursday, the final day of My Black is Beautiful Week, was all about self-care and Black hair.
“This is a day of expressing self-love of yourself and of your hair,” Bruce said. “Hair is an important thing in Black culture.”
BSU gave away gift baskets of hair care products to support their message of celebrating Black hair.
Bruce said running a student organization during a pandemic has required her to adapt and grow as a leader.
With BSU’s next events planned for February to celebrate Black History Month, Bruce is working ahead of time to schedule a speaker on Black culture.
Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, Bruce said she hopes to preserve the legacy and integrity of BSU at K-State in her time as president.
“BSU is a built-in family for a lot of Black students,” Bruce said. “I am here to explore, refresh, experience Black culture, elevate Black voices and give people who are Black the chance and avenue to showcase their leadership.”