Eastern’s BSU going strong after 53 years

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Staff Reporter

Fifty-three years ago, Eastern’s Black Student Union was created in response to the growing numbers of Black students on campus. It started as a way to keep up retention of Black students by helping them feel more comfortable returning to campus.

Since 1967, Black Student Union has been committed to both fighting for social justice and spreading diversity on campus, as well as the campus-surrounding area. Black Student Union also strives to help Eastern’s students through academics, service and social support.

Brittany Britton, senior sociology major, is the president of Black Student Union. She said that one of the many purposes of Black Student Union is to provide a safe space for Black students on campus.

“It started for students of color and African American students on campus to promote equality on campus, social justice, activism and things of that nature. I would like to say that we have taken that and evolved it to providing a safe space,” Britton said. “It’s always been a safe space for students of color, but I think now, and over time, we’ve needed the support. I think Black Student Union has held it’s own in being the support for African American students on campus.”

Black Student Union holds their weekly meetings on Mondays at 6:00 p.m. via Zoom. Their meetings allow students to come together in an environment where they can relax, enjoy each other’s company, discuss important topics and learn important information.

Jerimiah Boyd-Johnson, junior criminal justice and political science major, is the organization’s vice president. He said that meetings typically have a specific structure. They start with a welcome then continue on to an “Ice Breaker” and executive board reports. After that, the organization moves on to their “Hot Topic,” in which they have an open discussion about a hot topic or two. Typically, they will discuss any political issues or things going on in the media to help make students aware of them.

“I remember that when the controversy of homecoming was going on, that was one of our topics. We had an open space to talk about that. Not only did we have an open space to talk about that, we had another hot topic about the presidential debate that was upcoming,” Boyd-Johnson said. “We don’t tell our students what to think, but we tell our students to be informed.”

Black Student Union hopes that by discussing important issues in society and in the world outside campus, they will help Black students on campus.

“Whatever is affecting the African American population is obviously affecting students on campus. We help students maneuver through that, especially our freshmen and transfer students,” Britton said. “We also provide a fun space so we do a lot of social events which help promote building partnerships and relationships.”

One of the most fun and conversational aspects of Black Student Union’s weekly meetings is their “Ask Ms. Shirley” segment. This segment allows students to ask questions they may have in a very open, relaxed environment about things they need advice on. Black Student Union cares a lot about building connections among the members and doing fun things like that helps them achieve that.

“After [discussing our hot topic], we go into ‘Ask Ms. Shirley,’ which lets us discuss an usually really funny question about relationships, friendships and things like that. People submit questions to BSU anonymously, and we answer those questions,” Boyd-Johnson said.

In the past, Black Student Union has done tons of informative and social events. They have done ice cream socials, bowling nights, food drives and more. They also do educational events discussing how to vote, important moments in history, socio-economic issues, and many other topics. Last year, they hosted “Battle of the Orgs,” a spelling bee, and invited other organizations to participate.

Because of COVID-19, Black Student Union has had to take a different approach than they have in the past.

“We’ve been trying to basically meet our members halfway and provide more services for them. One thing we are doing now that we didn’t always do in the past is telling our members about the academic resources on campus,” Britton explained. “We’re telling them about the Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement, telling them about TriO, and where these services are located so they can not only be successful as members of BSU, but also just be successful as students of their own right.”

Even though Black Student Union caters to the Black community on campus, it is important to note that the organization is not just for Black students. Black Student Union encourages anybody to join, because everybody is welcome.

“BSU is not just for Black students. I understand that we target specifically Black students but we would love for people of other races and cultures to come to BSU and experience our meetings. We hope that they will come because we want to build inclusivity so if you come to our meetings, you will gain a lot of perspective,” Boyd-Johnson said.


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]