BSU Then and Now: Celebrating Black Women on Campus

by Brenda Reasby

Early members of the BSU attend the Black Women's Education Conference at University of Michigan

Early members of the BSU attend the Black Women’s Education Conference at University of Michigan

The Black Student Union has made its way back to the grounds of Mount Mary University. The BSU might have been founded in 1977, but eventually became inactive in 2004 due to lack of advising and student leadership.

It was reinstated in 2014 to give black women and at the time only had three members. Today, the BSU has 15 members and continues to grow.

Jazmin Sneed, president of the BSU and junior majoring in fashion design, said the organization pertains to her as a black woman.

“We just want our presence as black women on campus to be known since there’s not a lot of us,” Sneed said.

Sneed said it took a lot of work to bring the organization back, but it was worth it. In order to establish a club on campus, students must form a constitution, seek two advisers and have a certain number of students interested.

The BSU advocates for a sense of community awareness on campus

The BSU advocates for a sense of community awareness on campus

“It’s been nice to make connections with different people, whether it is friends of faculty, friends of our family members or just connections we’ve made with other students on campus,” she said.

Dr. Shawnee Sykes-Daniels, head adviser of the Black Student Union, said she’s very proud of all the things the group of women is accomplishing.

The Black Student Union has partnered with the Sojourner Family Peace Center to help collect coats for homeless men, women and children. The members also host discussion panels, black history open readings and black history bingo on campus.

Daniel-Sykes said it’s important to be a part of a particular cultural racial group that understands your experience.

“I know what it means to be a black woman,” Daniel-Sykes said.

The BSU is open to students of all backgrounds and ages. The club meets twice a month on Wednesdays at noon on the main floor of Haggerty Library. To join the BSU, contact Jasmine Sneed at sneedj@mtmary.edu.

BSU’s Beginnings

When Donna Mines stepped foot on the Mount Mary University campus in 1981, it never dawned on her that her decision to join the Black Student Union would influence the lives of so many women. She would later on become the adviser and director of the organization and mentor to many.

Mines was one of the first advisers and directors of the BSU at Mount Mary

Mines was one of the first advisers and directors of the BSU at Mount Mary

Mines was elected president of the organization; at the time, she was a nontraditional student in her early 30s, mother of two children and wife of a physician.

Mines said she never sought out the position; instead, her peers encouraged her to run after getting a feel for her nurturing spirit.

“I just felt if we were going to help out one another, we need to step up and do that,” Mines said.

Glenda Holly, who became head adviser for the organization on Feb. 17, 1981, said in a letter found in Archives that the administration was concerned about black student enrollment being at an all-time low.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1980 African-American students made up 15 percent of the student population. That was 73 students out of a total of 1,170 that were enrolled at Mount Mary.

Mines explained that Holly wanted to help the issue by informing students what the campus had to offer academically and socially.

This ribbon represents Coretta Scott King Achievement Association, the original name of the BSU

This ribbon represents Coretta Scott King Achievement Association, the original name of the BSU

According to a letter from Archives, students appeared in radio interviews discussing what minorities can gain by enrolling at Mount Mary.

Topics of discussion were about scholarship opportunities, information about the BSU and the opportunities to develop leadership.

“The goal was to get the word out that African- American students were going to Mount Mary to get degrees and not feel intimidated in a college setting,” Mines said.

The organization underwent several name changes. It was first called the Coretta Scott King Achievement Association.

To honor King, the members had written a passionate letter to express their sympathy for the crimes occurring in Atlanta where King resided with her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.The letter was sent to The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Incorporation, headquartered in Atlanta in 1981.

On February 5, 1981, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center replied to the letter, saying, “Mrs. King is heartened to learn that the women chose to name their organization in her honor, and encouraged to learn that they are committed to the ideals of Dr. King.”

Making Strides on Campus

Mines was not only civic-minded on campus, but in her community as well.

“I wanted the women to know from my perspective that they could do things even if they had not done them before,” Mines said.

The Black Alumnae Tea was one event that was held to honor alumnae. The event enabled current students to network and mingle with the alumnae who could share their stories and experiences at Mount Mary.

The group also organized health care seminars, showcased black art exhibits in the Marian Art Gallery, held annual club dinners and hosted panel discussions.

Letter from secretary of King Center located in Georgia

Letter from secretary of King Center located in Georgia

The women had the support of the Mount Mary community and helped students with expenses when they didn’t have sufficient funding.
After Mines graduated with a degree in ministry, she was hired to be the adviser of the BSU after Glenda Holly stepped down.

“We wanted to say something about African- American women, who they were and what they were,” Mines said. “We let other women know that we honor and cherish their capabilities.”

 

BSU President Jazmin Sneed was interviewed on Arches’ News in the Now last semester. Listen in the NITN post.

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