February 27, 2014

Black Students United Recognized by Student Assembly

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The Student Assembly recognized Black Students United last week for the organization’s Black History Month initiatives and its wide variety of programming offered to raise awareness for the black community at Cornell.

BSU dedicated each week of Black History Month to a different culture of the African diaspora, according to Gabrielle Hickmon ’16, treasuer of BSU. The organization hosted cultural dinners, movie screenings and “teach-ins” about topics such as black incarceration.

According to Hickmon, the variety of events intended to impart knowledge about black history to the Cornell community, as well as improve communication about the experiences of black Cornellians. “I advocated for BSU to be recognized because of its crucial role in bringing the whole Cornell community together.” — Seth Lutsic ’17

“I think when you’re a minority or a member of an underrepresented population at a predominantly white institution like Cornell, you can feel like there’s no space for you to really showcase who you are or what your culture means to you,” Hickmon said. “I think Black History Month is really a time to do that and to demonstrate the richness of black history to the Cornell community.”

S.A. Freshman Representative Seth Lutsic ’17 said the Student Assembly chose to honor BSU as part of its organizational spotlight program because of BSU’s role as an umbrella organization. He added that the organization has amplified programming by black student groups and fostered coalitions with organizations all across campus.

“I advocated for BSU to be recognized because of its crucial role in bringing the whole Cornell community together,” Lutsic said. “This will only increase as more members of our community become aware of the valuable efforts of BSU.”

Thaddeus Talbot, S.A. minority liaison at-large, said BSU’s “warm environment” is what has made it so successful in encouraging dialogue about black heritage.

“By creating platforms for social dialogue and intellectual stimulation, BSU en­courages students to speak up and solve issues pertinent to their com­mun­­ity,” he said.

According to Hickmon, the organization’s main goal is to help black students find a welcoming community on campus.

“Say It Loud” — a program held by BSU during Orientation Week — intends to bring together incoming black freshmen through events such as potluck dinners, where students meet Africana professors and peers, Hickmon said.

“Our overarching goal is to advocate for black students, or students in the African diaspora so that they feel like Cornell is a home,” Hickmon said.

Other events like the annual Black Solidarity conference at Yale University — where students from across the country explore solutions to college issues affecting the community — help black Cornellians bond with each other and also to connect with black college students nationwide, she said.

Hickmon said being a part of BSU has been invaluable to her during her time at Cornell.

“I wouldn’t feel as safe at Cornell and as part of a community here if BSU didn’t exist,” she said. “Just knowing that there [are] people who will advocate for me, who are my fellow peers, and who are doing things to enrich my experience makes Cornell feel like a safer place to me and more like a home and a community.”

Hickmon said she hopes the effects of the S.A.’s organizational spotlight will create lasting connections between the S.A., other organizations and BSU.

“I hope that there can be a richer collaboration whether it’s with the S.A. in general, Cornell organizations or just members of the S.A. coming out to events,” Hickmon said. “It’s great to recognize us, but if you don’t engage with us then it’s not worth as much.”