Black History Month Theme Focuses on Student Experiences & Timely Issues
February 8, 2019
While members of TLU’s Black Student Union (BSU) know it’s important to honor the contributions of African Americans throughout history, this year’s theme, “The TLU Experience,” spotlights what it means to be a black student now.
Sophomore marketing major Rashad Tolbert said the message is also about encouraging students to make a difference of their own. While he acknowledges that the group usually reflects on their past, he said they were intentional this year about focusing on current issues in the Black community.
“It empowers me to be the best I can be, not only for myself, but for those around me who may need a little enlightening or a push,” Tolbert said. “As BSU president, it makes me strive to not only empower, but inform others about both the past and present with the hope they can better the future. BSU works to give everyone an opportunity and a place to feel comfortable away from home, while also discussing things that might be left out or overlooked.”
For junior psychology major Asiah Johnson, the 2019 theme means specifically giving insight on the life of an African American student at TLU. This includes going through challenges they face together and lifting each other up as a community on campus.
“We’re all away from home and in a completely different environment than what we are accustomed to,” Johnson said. “BSU gives all of us something to identify with and a group each and every one of us can fall back on. In a way, the theme to me means family."
Johnson is most looking forward to events like the special screening of the documentary “Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland,” and the annual BSU scrapbooking party.
“Both give us time to sit down as a group and share something,” she said. “The movie will educate us on a big issue that many African Americans deal with and help spark change. The scrapbooking gives us time to sit and talk with one another while creating a page of a historically significant person in African American history to not only inform others, but ourselves.”
Being part of BSU has impacted Johnson in many positive ways, including helping her identify with the African American side of her heritage.
“It has opened my eyes to what people that are so similar to me go through and what I could potentially see and change for myself and others around me,” she said. “I can also thank BSU for helping me as an artist, as I have taken a liking more to the African setting and theme when it comes to my art. I have embraced being black now more than ever since starting at TLU. I can say that I’m a proud Black woman who wants to make a change and that change started with this organization that I call family. I know I’m a part of it always.”
BSU Faculty Advisor, Dr. Corinne Castro, also says that the organization embodies the spirit of community and resilience.
"Black History Month is a time that enables BSU to shine and showcase their collective talents and passion," Dr. Castro said. "However, BSU’s influence and presence on campus is palpable throughout the whole year. I continue to be grateful for the work this student organization and many others on campus undertake to make TLU welcoming and inclusive, enabling us to meet our shared commitment to diversity."
Carlyn Brown, a junior athletic training major, helped plan many of the events. She emphasizes that the Black TLU Experience only scrapes the surface of all the hidden gems that Black culture signifies. Her main goal is to culturally educate everyone on campus and appreciate Black lineage.
“Growing up in a predominantly Black environment and coming to TLU helped me further appreciate and love my culture,” she said. “What better way to show that love than in the month of February and have BSU host the Black TLU Experience events? Nevertheless, the most important thing we want people to remember is that every month is Black History Month. Although we learn and remember our past, we are still continuing to shape and innovate our future.”
Honoring diversity year-round is another way the entire campus community can connect with people from all backgrounds and educate others about important, timely topics.
“The issues we face as citizens in America do not stop once we step onto TLU's campus; they continue no matter where we go,” she said. “However, by educating ourselves, facilitating those awkward conversations, and respecting everyone's perspective, we will be able to find common ground within the issues and appreciate the lessons we all learn throughout those experiences. There are many things that we can learn to love and appreciate about other cultures, and some we can even incorporate into our own families. In life, no matter how old you are, you never stop growing.”
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