Although Black History Month is coming to an end, the celebration continues beyond February, and important issues must still be addressed throughout the year. To aid in such efforts, the Black Student Association (BSA) has been working toward creating much-needed dialogues within the Wheaton College community. As a result, the organization has gained an ever-increasing presence on campus, letting others know what it stands for – its beliefs and values as well as the motivations and passions of its members.
Steven Flowers ’20, the current vice president of the Black Student Association, manages the executive board and often facilitates communication with faculty and staff for programming purposes. The BSA is one of the oldest clubs on campus and, according to Flowers, “has grown to challenge the oppression of black people all over the world but also celebrate the vibrant contributions said individuals make to that same world.” He continued: “Due to the growing globalization and intersectionality (crossing of identity-related issues), [the] BSA has become more involved in overarching discussions because there is overlap with the many ways we as students and as people choose to identify.”
While the members of the Black Student Association strongly believe in their cause, achieving their goals has proven to be a difficult task. One challenge that the organization faces is concerned with finding effective ways to address large-scale problems on a local scale. This is also something that other multicultural groups on campus must deal with as they seek to enact change by informing and improving the Wheaton community. Flowers stated that rather than trying to rid the world of racism, the BSA’s primary focus is to first “eradicate racism on…campus…so that future and current students may feel more at home as every class comes and goes.” Therefore, experience gained at Wheaton can be a starting point to fixing social problems outside the college.
There are many unique aspects of the BSA and all that it offers, which have helped shape it into the organization it is today. “This year was definitely a big leap in terms of programming due to holding the second largest event on campus,” said Flowers. “We even participated in a charity basketball tournament at Babson University. If we can continue to bring communal and campus engagement to social issues, then [the] BSA is serving its intended purpose. Highly successful turnout has been a key indicator to us that we are doing good work.” Some highlights include dances such as Carnival, an annual collaboration with the Latino Student Association (LSA), and Black & Gold taking place at the end of February.
In addition, the Black Student Association has recently wrapped up major events, many of which involved partnering with other on-campus organizations such as the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning, the Center for Social Justice & Community Impact, I-Speak and Student Activities, Involvement and Leadership (SAIL) in celebration of Black History Month. In addition, the BSA sponsored a trip to go watch the new Black Panther movie.
For Flowers, “provid[ing] a space for the community of students often identified as black is important. It helps foster camaraderie and represents an open door in which others can hear the pain and joys of the black student experience.” At the same time, Flowers encourages all students to get involved: “[the] BSA is definitely not a space for only black-identifying students. I think that sentiment is at large on campus, but instead [the BSA is] a purposeful space. This year alone we have had several non-black-identifying students sit and contribute in weekly meetings.”
Flowers added: “The black-identifying student body has so many cultures to share, from sub-Saharan Africa to the Caribbean to even places such as Japan. Black people are everywhere and seeing others take interest helps alleviate the notion that the world is trying to depress and ignore us. So, please, come through.”
With Women’s History Month just around the corner, the Black Student Association looks forward to everything it has in store for the remainder of this semester