On Oct. 1, 2015, APU’s Black Student Association (BSA) had its third weekly meeting in Wynn 130. They open their meetings with a celebration of African American historical milestones. The segment is titled “This Day in Black History”. The members snap when the speaker is finished, as if they were at a poetry slam.
There are currently four ethnic organizations on campus: Asian Pacific American Student Organization (APASO), Pacific Islander Organization (PIO), Latin American Student Associate (LASA) and Black Student Association (BSA). APU’s population is 54 percent people of color. Six percent of the 6,500 undergraduates are black.
BSA’s mission and vision this year is to dissemble the stereotype of the organization being a “black kid’s club,” according to BSA President and senior English major Maurice Johnson.
According to Johnson, this year the club wants to emphasize that all are welcome to participate in BSA.
“Our theme for this year comes from Romans 15:7. We want to focus on accepting and loving others just as Christ has for us,” Johnson said.
Last year, BSA has spent meetings discussing national issues, from Ferguson and Charleston to police brutality that targets African Americans.
“Those were some heavy conversations that I feel [are] important to have, especially when that person looks just like you,” Johnson said.
Johnson described how last semester’s Activate movement “came about because of the oppression that the students felt from the university” and emphasized that “it’s not just a black thing.”
“When the BSA board and I were discussing Activate, we aimed to let it be known that it doesn’t belong to BSA. It’s a separate entity. However, BSA was and will always be a full supporter in any way,” Johnson said.
Senior Biblical studies major Rami Nious-Flores is BSA’s vice president. He said that this year, BSA is “a little bit more fun, cooler vibes,” whereas last year some from BSA focused on Activate.
“Attention was divided with Activate… there was the need for a change they were striving for,” Flores said. “It took a lot of courage to stand up in a way that they did.”
In terms of the importance of ethnic organizations on campus, Johnson said, “It’s good to take advantage of the opportunity to join with fellow people who share different backgrounds and various connections, and experience what there is to learn and celebrate different cultures.”
LaDra Grissom, a junior psychology major, has been a BSA member for a year.
“[BSA] helped me realize that there is a black population here at APU,” LaDra said. “Even though it’s not very big, you can see that from last year to this year, it’s been really growing. It gives you a sense of community and safety in a new environment.”
Grissom was part of the Activate walk-out last semester, and stated, “Just being in it I felt more connected to my heritage as a woman of color.”
According to Grissom, Activate’s mission was to tell students: “Don’t be so quick to please others just by staying within something that you know” and added, “but [BSA] could have explained that message a little better.”
Makeda Rose, a freshman commercial voice major and BSA member, is from Baltimore, and being part of BSA has helped her deal with the culture shock from moving to California. Rose said, “BSA is like a separate family that I can communicate issues with that sometimes I might not be able to communicate with my roommates, who are different races than me.
BSA meets every Thursday night at 7:30 in Wynn 130. Students of every race are encouraged to attend.