In 1969, the Student Affairs Committee drafted a memorandum – now in the Albion College archives – setting a plan in motion to create the Afro-American Union at Albion College. Though that name may be unfamiliar to many Brits today, the organization is still operating on campus as the Black Student Alliance, adopting their current name in February of 1985. No matter what name they operate under, the BSA works continuously to impact the Albion community.
The current president of the BSA is Chicago senior Anthony Neal, who said the group intends to promote belonging and meet the needs of minority students on the Albion campus.
“Black Student Alliance is a collective of individuals put on campus to create a safe space that meets the needs of minority students – most minority students being African American,” Neal said.
BSA secretary and Houston sophomore Aishat Fagun said BSA’s impact is simple.
“We create a safe space for learning, fun and cultural awareness,” Fagun said.
The BSA holds weekly meetings in the Umbrella House, a shared space for historically under-represented groups on Albion’s campus. The meetings themselves are primarily informational, discussing on-campus events or professional development skills, Neal said. A few weeks ago, members of BSA prepared for a job fair and revised their resumes.
BSA isn’t just limited to weekly professional development, though, this semester the organization ensured that every day of February was dedicated to Black History Month.
Fagun said that one of her favorite BSA events was the barbeque last spring, which she said gave students an opportunity to network with the larger Albion community.
Neal and Fagun both said BSA is an ever-changing organization.
“BSA has changed a lot compared to now in terms of what students need and the type of students that join,” Neal said. “BSA is a cornerstone for students who like to involve themselves in the community and is a cornerstone for the finer things out there.”
The organization has shifted to include more groups over the years. They have prioritized the inclusion and uplifting of LGBTQIA+ communities, partnering with clubs like LGBriTs to host campus-wide events. This semester, they partnered with LGBRiTs, Albion College Drip and others to host a Kiki Ball on Feb. 4.
“We want to let students know that no matter your race, we’re open to you performing or being a part of events,” Neal said. “We are here to shine a light on individuals and groups.”
According to research done by Akaiia Daishianna-Melyce Ridley, ‘22, BSA has always had to fight for their place on campus, often facing challenges to their goals of inclusion and uplifting of minority voices.
Ridley’s honors thesis, “The Beginning of Belonging: Exploring the Black History of Albion College,” compared petitions from 1968 and 2021. Both of which include detailed demands for an increase in recognition of institutes for race, ethnicity and diversity along with an increase in budgets and resources for the organization.
The petitions, Ridley states, show that while the “administration is making progress in their commitment to belonging, there is still work to be done.”
Neal mirrored the petitions and Ridley’s sentiment, saying that historically, Albion College struggles to provide student leaders with the proper resources to fit their needs.
“The college should find a way to put different students from different systems in the same room,” Neal said.
Documents held in the Albion College archives indicate that a fight for funding and recognition for BSA has led to changes in the structure and diversity of Albion College. Since BSA began, the organization has hosted Black History Month celebrations dating back to 1994, created petitions to hire minority admissions coordinators, and in 1992, one of the first honors program lectures on Black history.
Fagun said the college should work continuously to embrace diversity on campus.
“When they step towards that change, BSA will fully shine.”
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