As of the fall 2017 semester, black students made up about four percent of the student body at ASU. According to its website, the Black African Coalition seeks to unite "Black and African students on all four campuses."
On Thursday night, students packed into a room on the fifth floor of the Carson Student-Athlete Center for the second annual "Welcome Black" mixer.
This event isn't the only way the BAC helps ASU's black students get in touch with a community, as it hosts an array of events during the year, including the Black African Convocation and Black History Month Trivia.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity to see who you are at this University,” Cassandra Aska, the dean of students at the West Campus, said.
Aska is a first-generation, American-born citizen and also a first-generation college graduate. It was Aska’s own experiences at St. John Fisher College that made her interested in inclusive communities at colleges.
“It was the journey that led me to what my purpose was, and that was to invest in the lives of young people who didn’t have individuals who looked like themselves in these particular spaces,” Aska said.
Keon McGuire, a faculty affiliate with the School of Social Transformation, has done extensive research on race, gender and religion.
“Our responsibility is not just to ourselves and our immediate family,” McGuire said. “But it’s to the larger black diaspora community around the world.”
McGuire is a faculty advisor for the African American Men club at ASU, which is overseen by the BAC.
“This (event is) an act of love and belief that you will actually be successful here," he said. “The people who have invested in you, loved on you, spent time with you ... they’re the people who actually made you.”
Students are appreciative for the sense of community that such organizations provide.
“I know coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really know my place on campus as a black student,” said Ivory Thornton, a junior studying social work and president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council at ASU. “Being at a predominately white institution or 'PWI,' it’s important to let other black students know (that) they have a voice."
There is also the notion of being comfortable in your own skin.
“You feel free to express yourself,” Samuel Bahige, a junior studying engineering, said. “That’s why I love to be around people who look like me and share the same cultural values as me.”
His advice to other black students is to "try and connect with other black people.”
The affinity coordinator for the BAC, Monica Jones, had similar ideas.
“Find people that are similar to you and value the same things that you value,” Jones, a interdisciplinary studies senior, said.
Faculty members reaffirmed the overall theme of the night by emphasizing that black students have a place on campus.
“You definitely deserve to be here,” McGuire said. “This is something I have to tell myself.”