Founded seven years after the University of Mississippi admitted James Meredith, its first Black student, the Black Student Union at UM has been fostering a community of support and growth since its incorporation on March 25, 1969.
Senior integrated marketing and communications major Quiana White serves as BSU President. The Jackson, Miss. native has found and built community within the organization since she joined her freshman year.
“I came to Ole Miss in 2020, so the year of COVID-19. I would say the Black Student Union was the first organization I joined that piqued my interest in wanting to know or wanting to see where other people were who looked like me,” White said. “This is a predominantly white institution, so I wanted to know where other people that looked like me, talked like me or had some of the same backgrounds as me (were) and find how to get connected with them.”
According to their mission, the BSU aims to “stimulate the intellectual, political, cultural and social growth of all University of Mississippi students, primarily African American students.”
To do this, the BSU hosts monthly events that help students form connections with their peers.
“Throughout the semester, there are different smaller events, which may just be quick study nights, game nights, trivia nights and things of that nature,” White said. “In the fall, the big event is an ‘I Am BSU’ week, which is full of events. One of them normally is kind of a fall festival. This year, we did it a little differently and did a cookout edition, which was fun.”
Senior journalism major Lauren Hite has also found community through events and involvement with the BSU.
“The Black Student Union has provided me with a sense of community from the moment I stepped foot on campus my freshman year,” Hite said. “What I love most about the BSU is that no matter where you are from, your major or interests, there is space for you in the organization, and in it, you have value. I recommend joining the BSU to every incoming freshman I speak to.”
White expressed that one of the greatest benefits she has received is a sense of familiarity with other minority members of the student body.
“I don’t think that there’s a time I’m anywhere, I wouldn’t even say just on campus but like in Oxford, that somebody doesn’t recognize me or somebody doesn’t know me and I’m having a conversation with somebody,” White said.
Outside of creating bonds with fellow students, White’s position on the executive board has pushed her to develop the skills required to be a leader in such a large organization.
“I never really realized the impact (the BSU had) because I’ve never been the person who craved or wanted attention from a lot of people,” White said. “When I first got the position, I was like, ‘Oh this is going to be a lot different of an adjustment for me because so many people are going to know me. I’m going to be doing so many things out of my comfort zone.’”
The BSU has more than 400 active members. To become a member, simply fill out the membership application on the BSU’s website and pay a $15 membership fee that ensures access to all of the BSU’s events.
“We recommend and ask that you come to the events and when we have our general body meetings where we provide updates, but you don’t get kicked out if you don’t attend a certain number of events,” White said. “We encourage people like hey, you’re paying for this, this is something you are a part of, definitely come out whenever you’re able to.”