Saint Mary’s Black Student Union hopes to create safe spaces for conversation, understanding, and support for fellow students.
By Riley Mulcahy
In a year filled with racial injustice and political turmoil, it can be difficult for students to find the community and talk about issues that have affected them. Saint Mary’s Black Student Union, firstly, is an organization where African American students can share in their experiences in a safe and understanding environment. BSU is also a place where allies can learn about the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. and how they as allies can work together to support change. Although some may be apprehensive about joining the BSU, it is open to everyone hoping there can be dialogue on race that may not happen very often.
Police brutality and the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and subsequent protests have raised questions about allyship and how to support Black people in America effectively. According to BSU’s Internal Community Outreach Coordinator Collin Fisher, a transfer sophomore, the best way to support Black students on campus is to “learn, listen, and gain knowledge from the experiences of those in the Black community.”
The BSU aims to improve Saint Mary’s campus by figuring out ways to create a more welcoming atmosphere. BSU’s club President Shilei Bell-Lipsey, a junior, notes that the protests made the club realize that they have to “protect our community and make sure that the experiences of injustice, aggression, and disrespect faced on this campus and within the SMC community do not continue.” The BSU hopes to be a place where African American students can find comfort, and support from their peers.
Last month, members of the academic community, including some Saint Mary’s faculty, participated in a “Scholar Strike for Racial Justice.” Colin Kaepernick and other athletes from the NFL, NBA, and WNBA inspired the two-day strike. The strike aimed to point out America’s troubled history with systemic racism and police brutality.
The BSU stresses that everyone is welcomed at their meetings and that at this moment, it is essential more than ever to seek help from allies in the SMC community. According to Bell-Lipsey, the club members are considered family. With his participation Fisher hopes to be an example to other transfer students that they are welcome in the BSU. The process of learning and educating one’s self can feel super daunting; however, the BSU creates a welcoming environment that anyone can join and ask questions and listen to other college students.
Although COVID-19 has made BSU shift their programming to all virtual events, they have had many activities for the SMC community, including wellness sessions, general body meetings, check-ins, and Black History Kahoots.
These events educate the Saint Mary’s community about the Black experience and bond over taking classes in Zoom’s age. According to Fisher, the first general body meeting helped students talk about their current climate thoughts. Before the check-in about the protests, there was an opportunity for students to meditate before diving deep into the discussion.
The history of the BSU at Saint Mary’s is not widely known; however, the club is celebrating its 40th year for the 2020-2021 school year. The club hopes to learn more about how the club was started, and although the school’s archivist is not able to help due to COVID-19, the club is coming up with ways to find out more about their history as a club Saint Mary’s.
For allies, the BSU provides a space for growth and understanding. Sometimes, it can feel difficult to understand the “right” way to support Black students, but lending a helping hand and being there for them is vital at this moment and in the future.
Ways to connect with the BSU:
To Learn More about Saint Mary’s affirmation of Black Lives Matter, please go to:
Victoria Vidales '21,