The Black Student Union at Ole Miss is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary next semester. Founded in March 1968, the group has special events planned from now through March to commemorate its golden anniversary.
As the Black Student Union grows, its leaders continue to try to build on previous successes by hosting more annual events. Such events include the third “I Am BSU” Week, its second annual Service and Supper Thanksgiving Dinner and its fifth annual Black History Month Gala.
As a special event to honor the 50th anniversary, the chapter is inviting past presidents and members to come back and celebrate together for the fifth annual Black Student Union Black History Month Gala in February.
“The gala was created as a night to celebrate black excellence and achievement here at the university,” BSU President Nekkita Beans said. “This year, the gala will be expanded to accommodate 500 guests. That will include students, faculty and staff as well as past BSU presidents and members.”
Beans said it’s a night of dancing, good food and fellowship.
“I think it’s a great night for current members to network with alumni, which is really important,” Beans said.
Beans said current members will have even more opportunities to meet one another this year at the BSU’s 50th anniversary reception dinner. At the dinner, members will cover the history of the Black Student Union, make connections and celebrate the chapter’s work on campus.
She said the chapter was organized when black students felt their voices weren’t being heard on campus. They wanted to come together and represent themselves because they felt their needs weren’t being met.
“It’s been the voice of the black students here on campus,” said Christopher Cross, the BSU president’s chief of staff. “That’s what it has been, that’s what it’s doing and that’s what it will continue to do.”
Though the University of Mississippi was not integrated until 1962 with the enrollment of James Meredith, Beans said African-Americans have been an important part in the university since its founding.
“African-Americans have played a critical role in the development of the University of Mississippi that we see today,” Beans said.
She said this role can be seen in several forms, from the slave labor used to construct the university to the black maintenance and service staff members on campus and the black faculty and professors in the classrooms.
“This 50th anniversary is not just a celebration of us and our members as an organization,” Beans said. “It is a celebration of black community and fellowship here on campus, a reminder that every day, we black people come to campus and contribute to the University of Mississippi in a variety of ways.”
Beans said the Black Student Union at Ole Miss is special as a whole in comparison to chapters on other campuses because of the issues and situations black students at the university face now and have faced in the past.
“I would say we bond and have a stronger connection with each other than any other university or campus simply because of all the adversity we face,” Beans said.
BSU Vice President Christopher Feazell said despite having such a strong bond, people should realize each member is unique.
“Sometimes people think that just because we all look alike, we’re all alike, and that’s far from the truth,” Feazell said. “We come from different places. We have different personalities, and sometimes we even have differences in opinions about things. While we all may look alike, we all are very different, still.”
Over the years, the group has grown not only in numbers but also in its voice and social activity on campus. In addition to the membership doubling between last year and this year, Beans said the BSU is one of the organizations from which the university’s administration seeks opinions.
She said she believes the current members of the cabinet will continue to improve and bring success to the BSU in its future years once she and other executive board members graduate.
“Seeing that optimism in them and their taking initiative just really makes me excited for what the future will hold,” Beans said.