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Black Student Union’s Black History Month events represent intersectional success

Black Student Union’s Black History Month events represent intersectional success

Black Student Union’s Black History Month events represent intersectional success
February 20
12:00 2020

In their mission statement, the Black Student Union (BSU) states that they are, “committed to creating an intentional, empowered and engaged community that centers the intersectional black student experience at UNT.”

In the 11 events hosted alongside the Multicultural Center for Black History Month, BSU focuses on topics ranging from cooking, activism, mental health, LGBTQ identity, being an immigrant and personal success.

BSU President Cameron Combs said planning events for Black History Month started with a committee that included Multicultural Center staff member Shabaz Brown, the SGA president, as well as other Black leaders and staff members on campus.

“We planned it out in November, and then over the time from January into February was pretty much when you’re hitting the ground running,” Combs said. “I had already reached out ahead of time, a month in advance, and a lot of it has been being diligent with our communication with people. The idea that we wanted was to focus on Black excellence and success. We wanted to feature students and what they do. Not just the student leaders that you always see on campus, but the student leaders that you don’t see that are also doing stuff, not just in Black [organizations].”

Panel member Brooke Roberson said her role as director of programming for BSU includes putting on any events for the organization throughout the year. She said it was important for BSU to focus on the different sectors and identities of being Black with the events planned for February.

“Black people are not a monolith,” Roberson said. “We all go through different things even though we have shared culture. Being Black and being queer, being Black and being a woman, being Black and being disabled, different sectors of being Black can affect who you are. And we wanted to touch on those marginalized identities.”

An example of one of these events was “A Seat at the Table”, a panel discussion about being Black and identifying as LGBTQ. Roberson served as a moderator and often pushed the panel to speak on how they lived in their truth and challenged audience members to consider living in their truth.

Combs talked about how LGBTQ identity, as well as struggles with mental health, can often be neglected in and around the Black community. “I Tried to Pray It Away” was another event that centered around beginning the conversation about mental health.

“So many of the things like mental health [are things] that people don’t think they are affected by, but that’s something that affects everyone,” Combs said. “And those are just two topics that I wanted to focus on.”

Along with intersectional forms of representation, BSU set examples of success with alumni and networking events such as “‘UNT’ing While Black,” which connected BSU members with BSU alumni who worked in their respective majors, and “Black Wallstreet,” which showcased local Black business owners and entrepreneurs.

“I do think that it helps Black students to see people like them being successful,” Combs said. “Success doesn’t mean having money [and] doesn’t mean having a big title. Success just means being happy with what you’re doing, as well as being successful in it.”

Dominque Thomas served as an example of this success as a keynote speaker for the Black History Gala. Thomas is an alumna with a bachelor’s degree in radio, TV and film, and she currently serves as one of the youngest and only women in her department. During school, she was an active member of the University Program Council, vice president of the BSU, as well as vice president of the Student Government Association.

Throughout her speech, Thomas spoke about her struggles with mental health and making herself a priority.

“After I graduated, to be honest, I did not have a job,” Thomas said in her speech. “Every speaker that I’ve heard says to make sure you have a job after college, you want to make sure you prepare and have all these great things. And yes, you do, but if you don’t, I have not heard anyone say it’s okay. That’s time for you to focus on yourself.”

She also touched on navigating the workforce as a Black woman.

“My happiness is important to me,” Thomas said. “I didn’t want to be in a cubicle, in a corporate job. I didn’t want to be in an environment where I see people, and I’m the only person that looked like me in the room.”

Beyond Black History Month, BSU consistently strives to set an example of what its members could achieve. Roberson said that other events they do during the year include the Fall and Spring Ball, where they give out awards and wrap up the year, as well as smaller events like Hump Days every Wednesday.

“Our main goal is to be the voice for our Black students, to uplift them,” Combs said. “There are so many topics [we address] that have nothing to do with anything about being Black. The topics had to do with developing you as a person and making yourself more professional when you are doing student interviews [or] you’re doing interviews for jobs. It’s about respect. Our main goal is to give you some sort of developments where you can utilize it not only in Black spaces but also in other spaces as well.”

Featured Image: Students and BSU members standing up singing the Black National Anthem on Feb. 12, 2020. Image by Theophilus Bowie

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Jordan Kidd

Jordan Kidd

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