Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Black Student Union (BSU) makes a strong comeback this semester. With membership slowly growing, the relatively young club is beginning to find its footing on campus.
This semester marks BSU’s second year of operation, and President Lauryn Nesbitt, a senior Creative Writing and Literature student, says she wants the club’s focus to be ensuring BSU is a safe space where students of color can come to re-energize and gain support. “Just something that is familiar, even if it’s something as minimal as looking like each other,” Nesbitt says.
Other members come to BSU in search of an outlet to express themselves. “I see the BSU as a family of people that are passionate about black culture. It’s a community where I, as a black person, can express another part of myself that is not afforded to me in most circles here,” Thulani Mason, a senior Contemporary Music Program major, says.
The formalities of the second meeting on Sept. 25 are over quickly, with Nesbitt making general announcements and discussing logistics before moving on. The rest of the club time is dedicated to open dialogue on current events, sharing creative ideas, event planning and personal discussion. BSU members say they also hope to educate the campus and community on current issues happening in America. The club members openly discuss both heavier and lighter topics, ranging from respectful ways to celebrate life to fun event ideas like group yoga.
BSU has made its mark on campus with its tantalizing annual Black History Show, which is already being planned. In fact, BSU plans to be an active force on campus for the entire month of February. “I feel that the school doesn’t necessarily do a lot in celebration [of Black History Month] like they do to celebrate other things,” Nesbitt says. “So I feel like, instead of waiting around, why not just go and celebrate all of the things? We’re going to try to accomplish something every day of the month: big or small.”
In addition to the Black History show, BSU will be holding its usual dance as well as introducing a new event: a Mr. and Mrs. Black History pageant. Nesbitt expresses the pressure the club feels because it has less administrative support than some of the other student-lead, event-based clubs around campus due to both being a newer club and recent administrative shifts. “I think the pressure is to just figure it out and produce really good events that are still at the caliber of the other clubs,” Nesbitt says. With past faculty advisor Ryan Henson’s departure from the university, Library Technician Keynan Johnson is taking on the task.Poets, Painters, and Musicians is another event BSU has successfully held in the past. Now, members are working to make it a monthly occurrence. “There’s a musician that always accompanies some type of songstress or poetess or writer, and then they’re both accompanied by a live artist, someone who talks back to however they feel in the moment using a visual art,” Nesbitt says.
The club itself, as casual as it is serious, sees importance in positivity. Nesbitt hopes to focus on the celebratory aspect of being black, seeking a carefree atmosphere for the club. “I’m afraid to be in a world where I have to ask to exist. I understand the movement and I’m grateful for it, but to even have to have a movement for that doesn’t really make too much sense to me,” Nesbitt says. “I think it’s so backwards and so dehumanizing.”
The group’s warm demeanor makes it evident that the other members feel the same way. “My favorite part of African American culture to celebrate is our resilience,” Mason says, “Our resilience has greatly shaped this country and its culture.” Members frequently joke around during the meeting and openly share their creative ideas without fear of judgment. There are many different kinds of students who call themselves members of BSU. Looking around at the meeting attendees, many different types of people are present. Regardless of gender, race or major, everyone is welcome to join the community.
“I want students to know that the BSU is an organization for all. While we represent the minority of blacks students here on campus, we hope that others who our outside of that minority involve themselves in order to grasp black culture here on campus and everywhere else,” Mason says.
BSU meets every other Sunday at 2 p.m. in Fogelson Library.