Photos by mjimages
The legacy of student movements
February 21, 2023
North Carolina has always been a hub of student movements related to civil rights. The Greensboro sit-ins, organized by Shaw University’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to desegregate public lunch counters, shared a wider goal with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and the National Association of Colored People to fight for decency for black people across the United States. Now, sixty-three years later and just a few miles away, Athens Drive Magnet High School’s own black student movement is alive and thriving.
“We want everyone to feel included in a space that would otherwise exclude them.” Nevaeh Brooks, social media manager for the Black and Brown Student Student Union (BBSU).
During Black History month it is especially important to think about how these unions are making a difference in our community. These student unions help to promote inclusivity for students to feel safe.
She feels it is important for students to know that everyone is welcome, no matter how different they are. These student unions also promote diversity for students of every race to learn about black history.
Student unions have been around for a while now, and are still continuing to grow to this day. San Francisco State University hosted the establishment of the first Black student union in 1966. Soon after, Black student unions started to appear on campuses all over the country. Nevaeh herself speaks about how her personal family’s history has partaken in these unions as well.
“My grandmother did similar things to me when she was in high school and my dad when he was in high school so it was somewhat of a right of passage for me,” said Neveah Brooks, senior.
Many black students feel deprived of access to and exposure to black teachers and staff at primarily white institutions. Additionally, they could have trouble relating to peers from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Black student unions honor and promote black culture while institutions address their anti-black histories and racist legacies on campus.
Black student unions can provide a place of safety and cultural affirmation for students. A common cultural identity and on-campus experiences allow these students to connect with one another. 2020 was a very challenging year for many Black and Brown pupils due to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Many Black student unions planned how to increase public awareness of police violence. Additionally, they called for greater security and protections for Black students on campuses.
The first purposes of black student unions were to address political and civil rights issues, both on and off campus. The Black Campus Movement occurred between 1965 and 1972 and gave rise to black student unions. African American college students sought and demonstrated more campus inclusivity at this crucial juncture in history.
Additionally, the development of a student’s identity and academic achievement may benefit from involvement in these organizations. They also offer a community of solidarity for Black kids. These groups were a valuable source for student activity at colleges with a predominance of white students. These areas would be used by staff, instructors, and students for organizing, creating activist agendas and fighting racial prejudice. Black student unions have transitioned from being an activist or political organization to more of a social organization on many college campuses nowadays. Black student unions are frequently portrayed as popular and exclusive social clubs for Black students in famous television shows and films like “Grown-ish” and “Dear White People.” While these groups may still place a high value on activism, they now place a greater emphasis on developing and promoting peer cultures and/or peer socialization.
“As a Black and Brown Student Union, it’s our duty to be the voice for our students of color who don’t have a voice.” said Brooks.