Black Student Union aims to engage all students during Black History Month

By Kaitlyn Engen, Reporter

Ry-Yon Nixon and Taisa Bernard anticipate lots of education, engagement and excitement to come out of this year’s Black History Month.

Nixon, Secretary of Africana Studies and Black Student Union (BSU) adviser, said the idea formulation for February’s celebration started as early as last July.

The month was planned under the overarching theme of “Setting the Record Straight.”

“In today’s climate, it is ‘setting the record straight’ on the narrative, the historical events, and facts about Africana Studies, BSU and organizations like the NAACP,” Nixon said.

In planning out the Month, Nixon teamed with other departments and organizations like the Multicultural Center, the Chicano Studies Program, the Women and Gender Studies Program and the Pride Center, to diversify the discussions lined up.

“It helped to collaborate with other departments to get other perspectives. It allowed us to reach out to community and add to the panel,” said Nixon.“We are opening it up to be more than just African-American. It’s not just black history, it’s American history.”

Nixon saw Black History Month as a chance to integrate many other popular topics of discussion, such as feminism and intersectionality, into the central theme as well.

“It’s like putting our whole lives into a month,” Bernard said, junior and BSU President, who also looks forward to the fun learning opportunities that will bloom of the events for students of all backgrounds.

“A lot of people see the outside, especially in the black community, because there are a lot of stereotypes,” said Bernard. “Even just with BSU, it’s showing who we really are and what we’re really about, to broadcast that and to celebrate it in a light way.”

Halfway through the month and BSU has already produced several successful outcomes. The Late Night Dance Party on the first Friday of the month (Nixon’s favorite event so far) had a turnout of over 90 students gathering for food, games and activities.

“It’s something that’s special to me. I love to see students happy and enjoying themselves,” Nixon said.

Bernard was also very satisfied with the turnouts for the other events that have happened so far.

“One of my favorite discussions was on Tuesday: ‘The Male Experience Growing Up in America,’” said Bernard. “It felt like I was at church.”

The depth and impactfulness that the events and discussions carry is not only attributed to the people behind the scenes organizing them, but to also the ones on the panel bringing in their own meaningful insights.

Nixon and Bernard both expressed great appreciation that the discussions have allowed for participants to get to know their professors on a more personal level. Dr. Scott Finnie, Director of Africana Studies, was mentioned as an exceptional contributor to the panel discussions.

“We really have great professors at Eastern,” said Bernard. “Just to hear them talk is amazing.”

It was also great to gain perspectives from students on the panel, according to Bernard, most especially those of black student athletes, to which she observed “took them off their pedestals” to get to truly know the people behind the uniforms.

This week, Nixon and Bernard are looking forward to the “Identity Dialogue,” happening on Wednesday, Feb. 14 from 11 a.m. to noon in Monroe 205, and the “Divine 9 Panel Discussion” happening the next day from 3 to 5 p.m. also in Monroe 205.

Nixon said to visit the EWU Africana Studies website for more information on the schedule of events.

EWU students of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds have much to anticipate in these next couple weeks of Black History Month.

“We’re learning, we’re digging deeper, and we’re learning more about ourselves and our cultures,” said Bernard.