Eleven members of the Student Assembly and its affiliated committees have organized to form the S.A’s first Black Caucus.
The organization, titled Cornell Student Assembly’s Black Caucus, was founded on Sunday with a mission to “continue the work of the Black students who organized the Willard Straight Hall Takeover of 1969, which resulted in the creation of the Cornell Student Assembly.”
According to a press release, which includes imagery of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Willard Straight Hall and Ujamaa Residential College, the founding of the caucus is related to treatment of black students on the S.A. and the role black students play in decision making on campus.
The caucus will work towards retention of black members on the S.A., treatment of black people, representation of black people and community building, Gavin Martin ’20, chair and speaker of the caucus and an S.A. representative, told The Sun.
The caucus is not an official body of the S.A. and will not seek out a process to become institutionalized within the charter of the S.A.
“Our existence as a collective does not require the validation of others and more specifically our non-black peers. The institutionalization we seek is exogenous from whatever formalized process the Student Assembly can possibly provide,” the founding statement reads.
S.A. President Joe Anderson ’20 said that he supports the caucus and recognizes the “historic” nature of the founding.
“Having the pleasure of personally knowing most members of the Caucus and their leadership I will stand with them and utilize any institutional privilege to make sure there is always a seat at the table for the Caucus,” Anderson told The Sun in an email.
The founding statement of the caucus also addressed the intersectionality of the identities of its members, saying that the members are either Black women, Black queer women, black and queer or black, femme and queer.
The leadership for the caucus also includes Uchenna Chukwukere ’21, vice chair, Selam Woldai ’23, deputy speaker, and Jenniviv Bansah ’22, whip, and Moriah Adeghe ’21, Nabila Okudo ’21, Debbie Nykaru ’20, Renelle Mensah ’21, Destiny Nwafor ’21, Olubanke Agunloye ’20 and Eloya Ihegihu ’23 as founding members. All of these individuals identify as black and serve as a representative or on a committee.
Membership for the founding members was based on an application process. Martin said all black students affiliated with the assembly were invited to apply. Everyone who applied was selected and those not on the committee declined to apply.
In the future, there will be four types of membership in the caucus, including full-membership for active S.A. members, provisional membership for those interested in the S.A. and retroactive membership for past members of the S.A.
The fourth membership type is the guest membership. Starting in the spring, the caucus will open up the space semesterly for community members that “advocate for Black Rights and issues on campus.”
Martin said the caucus will focus membership for those that identify as black.
“We believe that black individuals most intimately understand what it means to be black and struggle in life, or have barriers in front of you because you are black,” Martin said. “It’s that lived experience that we really value.”
However, Martin recognizes the work that allies and non black people of color do to advocate black issues and is open to working with other groups through programming or as a guest of the caucus.