In 1969, black students at UVA came together to form an organization that they would be able to call their own. From this, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) was formed. The main purpose of the organization was to articulate the voices and concerns of the black student population. Since it’s founding, the number of black CIOs on grounds has tremendously increased. The Black Student Alliance was even the trailblazer that pushed to establish the Office of African American Affairs in 1976. A large chunk of the black history at the University of Virginia lies with the Black Student Alliance.
This past year I held the position of Vice President of the Black Student Alliance. Being a Second Year, it was extremely intimidating to take on a position of so much power in an organization that has so much history and influence. As I look at the experience, I honestly couldn’t say that I would have chosen any differently than to run for Vice President at the end of my first year. BSA has really put in the extra effort and work that the university needed. Our first major accomplishment was our participation in the National Die-In for police brutality. Dozens of students assembled in front of Old Cabell Hall facing the Rotunda in solidarity with the numerous lives lost to police brutality. Some students even felt led to share their personal feelings and concerns. The next huge trial for this past school year was the writing of the n-word on certain doors in a first year residence hall. This was something that really took the entire black community by shock and left numerous individuals speechless. From this incident, BSA took a stand and created a “Dorm Talk” initiative where we visit different dorms and present a short presentation on implicit bias and the black experience at UVA. These dorm talks even extended to other groups across grounds besides just dorms. We’ve organized a Teach In to educate professors of not only the black experience at UVA, but the minority experience as whole. We also planned numerous events around the 2016 Presidential Election and aided with the Minority Right Coalition in it’s Eliminate the Hate campaign.
Although last year seemed to be very politically charged, we still seemed to make sure that we were still taking care of the needs of our constituents. The first ever Activity Hour was co-sponsored with the NAACP as UVa as well as the National Pan-Hellenic Council. Over winter break we held our annual Emerging Leaders retreat for first & second year black students that want to hone in on and cultivate their leadership skills. 2017 has also been the third year since our revival of the Black Ball, a tradition African American students of the past at the University started as a way for them to celebrate being in the company of one another. I have seen the black community truly come together this year whether it be activism or just plain fun.
Being apart of BSA has truly made my experience at the University worthwhile. Prior to attending the University, I never would’ve imagine the immense level of greatness I have joined by being a part of the black community at UVA. There is not one specific “type of black person,” just like there is not one specific “type of UVA student.” I believe that the Black Student Alliance has done and will continue to do it’s fair share to bring together black students and assist them on their journey to tackle both the University of Virginia and beyond.
Cameron Stokes, College of Arts and Science, Class of 2019, Youth & Social Innovation and Psychology, firstname.lastname@example.org