For an MSU organization that’s barely a year old, the Black Student Union (BSU) has done quite a bit. Lyla Brown, the president of the club, as well as board members of BSU, recently held the club’s first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event. Last year, the group attended University of Montana’s (UM) Black Solidarity Summit in Missoula with seven members. UM’s BSU is the third oldest in the country.
Brown, a junior studying psychology with a concentration in criminology, was personally inspired after last year’s diversity retreat. She stated that there was talk on campus about starting a club, but it wasn’t until now that everything finally came together.
Brown and Vice President Jamelle Phillips were in contact with the president of BSU at UM who Brown said was, “a big resource in getting started.” By happenstance, the president of UM’s BSU is the daughter of MSU professor of Learning Systems Design and Technology, Gilbert Kalonde, Ph.D. Kalonde now serves as MSU’s BSU advisor and played a large role in ultimately forming the now-registered club. Another great resource Brown turned to in the development of the club was ASMSU Student Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jamie Baird.
In celebration of Black History Month, the club is hosting a movie festival in the Procrastinator Theater. Throughout the month, they will highlight movies that either have a Black director or a predominantly Black cast. The club will showcase “Precious” on Feb. 21 and “Selma” on Feb. 28. The focus this semester is to put on a couple of events and to engage more students in discussion. Their current recruiting method is word of mouth.
Right now, the club has a total of 153 members and about 25–30 members that meet on a weekly basis to discuss ways to get involved and talk current events. Brown explains that “a typical Wednesday gathering starts with introductions and icebreakers then moves into announcements.” She likes to highlight scholarship opportunities, things happening on campus and community events. There is an informative presentation each meeting and occasional celebrations. This past January, the group celebrated Kwanzaa, an African-American observance to honor African heritage through traditional meals and gift-giving.
Some topics the BSU have explored lately are colorism, the government shutdown, the documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” and teaching people how to have productive conversations. Brown hopes everyone knows that the “BSU is not only a resource for black students.” The organization loves having everyone join their discussions. “It’s a great education tool to talk about important topics” Brown concluded. BSU meets every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Haynes Hall 216. Email email@example.com for more information.