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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Black Student Union creates community

UNI%E2%80%99s+Black+Student+Union+will+be+hosting+a+lineup+of+events+celebrating+Black+History+Month.+The+club%E2%80%99s+leaders+say+that+recognizing+and+celebrating+this+month+is+especially+important+at+a+predominantly+white+institution+like+UNI.
COURTESY/BSU
UNI’s Black Student Union will be hosting a lineup of events celebrating Black History Month. The club’s leaders say that recognizing and celebrating this month is especially important at a predominantly white institution like UNI.

For UNI Black Student Union (BSU) President Randy Whitfield and BSU Vice President Celia Emunah, stepping onto UNI’s campus for the first time was intimidating. But thanks to BSU, they were able to find friendship and community.

Whitfield said attending a PWI, or predominantly white institution, can be a challenge but finding community through BSU was an important step on their college journey.

“I knew I was coming to PWI so I had mentally brace that I probably wasn’t going to meet a lot of black people on campus,” Whitfield said. “I was planning on transferring after my freshman year, but I decided to stay and become the treasurer for BSU, and now I’m the president of BSU. (BSU) helped me not only find a community on campus, but help build and contribute to that community.”

Emunah had a similar experience to Whitfield, and said she also considered transferring before finding organizations like BSU.

(BSU) helped me not only find a community on campus, but help build and contribute to that community.

— Randy Whitfield, BSU President

“It’s a community and a safe space for us,” Emunah said. “I feel like it’s really helped me navigate life and helped me on my own personal growth. I feel like when you start finding these spaces on campus, it helps really set your foundation and create a better college experience.”

With February being Black History Month, Whitfield and Emunah said recognizing and celebrating this month is especially important for a PWI campus like UNI. According to UNI’s website, “Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements made by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history.” 

Whitfield said, “It basically just sheds light on black students at UNI because sometimes black students don’t get don’t feel like they’re being represented or highlighted. So we use Black History Month as a time to do that for black students specifically on campus.”

Emunah added, “It’s a time to embrace our culture. Although we have certain safe spaces, this helps make campus even more comfortable for black African American students, because there’s a lot of African American black students here that don’t even know we have certain safe spaces.”

BSU will host a variety of events for Black History Month throughout February, starting with their kickoff celebration for Feb. 1 from 6 – 8p.m in Maucker Union. Light refreshments and live music will be provided for attendees.

On Feb. 4, a Soul Food Dinner will be held from 2 – 4 p.m. at ThreeHouse, and on Feb. 6 the movie “Poetic Justice” will be played at 6:30 p.m. in KAB 111. 

The 18th annual African American Read-In will be held on Feb. 15, which is part of National African American Read-In activities planned nationwide during Black History Month. 

The annual Tunnel of Oppression will be held from 6 – 8p.n. On Feb. 20 in Maucker Union. This event, which starts in the Maucker Union tunnel and goes all the way to Lang, continues to be one of BSU’s signature events. Rooms are rented out and different topics are addressed in each room. Groups of five to eight people are taken from room to room to experience what African Americans have gone through from the past to the present. Each room displays a reenactment of different types of oppression many minorities have experienced. 

For some fun and recreation, BSU will host a Skate Party from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Wellness Recreation Center, and finally the formal event “Toast for Change” will end the month’s festivities on Feb. 29 from 6 – 8 p.m.

Emunah emphasizes that everyone is welcome to attend these events. 

She said, “It’s open to everybody because it’s important to educate everyone about what we do. Our events are not directly catered towards a certain group of people. They’re for everybody, and there for everyone to have fun.”

Whitfield reiterated how everyone is always welcome to attend their events.

COURTESY/BSU

“The stigma that our meetings are just for black students or people of color is untrue. I want everyone to know our meetings are for everyone, and they’re not catered towards any one person or any one community. We just genuinely have a good time, and they are usually full of laughs. It’s just fun.”

Beyond Black History Month, Emunah and Whitfield plan on continuing to build BSU’s strong community, and hope UNI will continue to support them.

“We hope UNI will keep doing what’s right and keep supporting our organization and our spaces,” Emunah said. “We hope they provide support instead of limiting us while asking what we need instead of taking away what we have.”

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CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN, Executive Editor

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