What my BSU gave me at my PWI: Five Essential C’s
emotionally and even physically. I’d always dreamed of graduating high school and going to Spelman College, but my father (footing the bill for my degree) decided investing in a BSU was not in our best interests to he required me to attend the University of Washington for his support. I didn’t say no, but the culture shock was intense. For two years I was the only Black student in all of my classes, I had not gotten any black professors and the desperately low black population was more evident than ever.
Another important product that my BSU provided me with was a feeling of commitment. I knew that every single Wednesday evening regardless of what I was going through, I would be able to attend a BSU meeting. Wednesday became my sanctuary day, a time to recuperate so that I could make it through the rest of the week. I knew that if I was stressed and there were finals I could meet up with Black students dealing with the same stresses at the BSU meeting or if there was something happening politically that frustrated me, I would have a chance to share my frustrations with like-minded students at the upcoming BSU meeting. I knew that no matter what was going on in the world outside I could decompress while attending the next BSU meeting. I quickly became a regular member and a consistent contributor to our though provoking conversations.
Conversation was a regular part of our meetings, we designated a large part of the meeting time towards discussing current events. We talked about the Flint Water Crisis, we also followed the presidential campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement. We mourned together after the loss of Black lives to state forces and brainstormed ways to raise awareness on a local level in our university community. The conversations we had created a space where I was able to ask the hard questions that I was too afraid to bring up to my non-black friends. At the time I was dating an South Asian guy who’d legitimized police murders saying, “Maybe you all should be more calm” That was the end of that relationship and I realized that not every person that claims to care about me actually cared about the well being of Black life or understood Black History in the United States. There is a complex relationship between Blacks and the police and I realized that these complex conversations could only be productive in a safe space and my BSU gave me that space. There is one discussion that I’ll always remember that resulted in a practice that I do to this day. Another BSU member who had been a member of student government at that time said she’d seen an image of Disney Princesses “Blackifyied”. A lot of us had not heard of the concept so she used the projector in the room to show us the original Disney Princesses drawn as Black people, and surprisingly the images were refreshing. As Black people living in a white world we are constantly bombarded with images and standards that are unobtainable and conflict with who we are. When we watch TV the commercials throw beauty standards at us that damage our self image and the characters that look like us in the shows are one-dimensional or die off in the beginning. She explained how the conflict is unhealthy and shared that she looks up cartoon characters Blackified all the time to relax. Try it!