Black Student Union highlights history and heritage

by Aliyah Basuil

Every year, the month of February commemorates black history in America, and this year, University of Northwestern – St. Paul’s first black student organization was busy hosting events on campus every week of Black History Month to celebrate black culture.

Black Student Union, led by sophomores Jazinae Patterson, Payton Bowdry and Kristen Sanders, and senior Parker Thibodeaux, hosted four functions in February including a Table Talk discussion in partnership with FORCE, a Black Panther showing and a movie night on campus. BSU’s final event of the month was Northwestern’s first Black History Month Celebration on Thursday, February 22 at Robertson Student Center.

The Black History Month Celebration was open to students of all cultures, and featured live performances by local artists, games, a Kahoot quiz about black history, music, a dance floor and food traditionally eaten in many black-American households, like greens, fried chicken and macaroni & cheese. Many black students showed up to the event wearing dashikis, a traditional African garment, to show off their heritage.

The event’s purpose was for black students to celebrate their culture, and it provided a space where all Northwestern students could participate in a black celebration as well.

Parker Thibodeaux, vice president of BSU and senior psychology major, said, “We wanted to have a place where we could just come together and celebrate our culture. Whether that’s through music, dancing, food, playing games or just having a good time, we just wanted to invite people into that, and enjoy ourselves too.”

Black Student Union was formed in October 2017 to create a community for black students at Northwestern to celebrate their culture and invite others to learn about the experiences, heritage and background of black Americans, especially at Northwestern. One way they do this is through hosting events that reflect black culture.

Presley Apson performed a spoken word in English and Swahili at the celebration. A junior majoring in international business, Apson is proud of his African heritage and said, “I think this was the first black history event like this at Northwestern, so I knew I couldn’t miss it. I enjoyed the fact that it was different from most of events offered on campus with the food, performances, music and the representation of black culture through how people dressed.”

Benjamin Kirby, a senior business administration major, attended the celebration to support his brothers and sisters of color at Northwestern. He said, “I joined BSU to understand people’s perspectives and their experiences.” Kirby acknowledged cultural divides in American society and said, “It’s important for us to learn how to build relationships and bridge the divide, so I’m trying to do that by being present at cultural events like this celebration.”

FORCE, Northwestern’s multicultural organization, helped BSU leaders with funding, advertisement and set-up. Isabel Lopez, sophomore history major and vice president of FORCE, said that the celebration was “so needed on campus. It makes a difference for people to know that there is a voice and a very tangible presence of a black community—and a minority community—here at Northwestern here to support one another. I’m thankful for everyone who came tonight, made their best effort to get to know the people in BSU and support this event.”

Though Black History Month has ended, Black Student Union has more social functions planned for the rest of the semester. Students of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend and gain more cultural experiences and awareness.