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Students come together to form a Black Student Union at ASU Downtown

The union aims to unify the black student body on the Downtown Phoenix campus


Members of the Black Student Union pose for a photo after their first meeting on the Downtown Campus in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2019.

Students on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus met on Tuesday night for the inaugural meeting of the Black Student Union, where club leaders introduce attendees to the new group and began brainstorming the club's direction and upcoming events.

The organization was founded by Makayla Higgs, president of the Black Student Union on the Downtown Phoenix campus and a junior majoring in French and theatre, when she noticed her campus lacked a similar group.

"When I was a freshman, I felt that I didn't have the space for the community that already existed here downtown," Higgs said.

Higgs, now a Tempe student, said she and other black students on the Downtown campus did not have an organization that gave them a space to meet and collaborate without traveling to the Tempe campus to access that sort of space at the Black African Coalition.

There are also black student unions on the Polytechnic and West campuses, but BSU on the Downtwon campus operates separately from them for now.

"I envisioned it to be inclusive (while) at the same time achieving the purpose of creating solidarity amongst black students," Higgs said about the downtown Phoenix group. "A place where they could intentionally come together. I want it to serve as a place for people to become connected and to stay connected."

Higgs said she wants the BSU on the Downtown campus to create a safe space for students, no matter what color, to come and ask questions, have conversations and create and foster friendships. 

"It's not about creating community, the community already exists," she said, saying there is already an existing black student population on the Downtown Phoenix campus. "It's just we're not together — so just creating that sense of togetherness."

Kermit Brown, a professor of communications at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and an affiliated faculty member with the Center for the Study of Racism and Democracy, is the advisor to the BSU.

Brown, a former member of a black student union in college, said these organizations serve as an important platform for students of color.

"I was a president of a black student union at community college and it was a very rich experience for me," he said.

Brown said that, with the union, he wants to help create a brotherhood or sisterhood where students can socialize and support each other in their academic goals. 

"I want an emphasis placed on academics," he said. "Students come to college for many reasons, but the main reason is to graduate."

Brown aims to see students in good academic standing and hopes to provide the resources needed to do so through BSU.

He said there is no more important time to have an organization like the BSU on campus and that there is a need for an organization to unify the black community on ASU's Downtown campus. 

"I hate to sound cliche, but they're our future. You guys, the students, (are) our future," Brown said.

Students who attended the event said they were hopeful for the future of the Downtown Phoenix campus with the BSU integrating itself into the community. 

Selena Teran, a freshman studying community health and member with BSU, said she attended the inaugural event to find out what a black student union was.

"In high school, we didn't have one and I wanted to have the experience of actually attending and being a part of a black student union, in the community at my school." Teran said.

Another attendee at meeting, Loza Brook, a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication and a member with BSU, said she's happy to see representation happening in ASU's Downtown Phoenix community through BSU.

"I hope we can increase the diversity and acceptance of different cultures and promote cultures so that they're normal and people don't see black culture and think it's such a weird thing," Brook said.

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