First Black Student Union homecoming goes virtual

Black Student Union members used the online space to emphasize celebration and Black joy in the weeklong event.

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Courtesy of Black Student Union

The Black Student Union board pictured at homecoming in 2019.

Jasmine Snow, City Reporter

Following a tumultuous summer, the Black Student Union (BSU) partnered with Student Unions and Activities last month to create a space for University of Minnesota students to celebrate, discuss and reflect on Black culture.

The first-ever BSU Homecoming was an entirely virtual, multi-part event that took place over a week at the end of October. It included discussions about intersectional and cultural issues within the Black community, as well as performances and Q&As with famous young, Black, queer artists like rapper Young M.A. and comedian and Daily Show correspondent Jaboukie Young-White.

BSU vice president, Samiat Ajibola, said the goal of the event was to emphasize celebration as much as possible. She said it was especially important to highlight the whole Black experience amid the continued work by Black community members fighting against racial injustice.

“We just wanted to show some Black joy, really — show what Blackness truly is,” she said. “Which isn’t just being sad and depressed all the time and worrying about the next day because these things are going to keep happening each day for a while. We really just wanted to show something besides what the media usually portrays.”

BSU social events chair, Sabit Wagad, said that because the pandemic has curbed turnout at BSU events, coupled with the cancellation of an official University homecoming, the Black homecoming provided an opportunity to give space for students to connect through culture.

“We wanted to turn [the event] into a promotion of Black excellence and just make it as Black as possible,” Wagad said. “We just wanted to make it the best we would for the Black students on campus … and to gather as many of us together and celebrate as much as possible.”

BSU members introduced the idea during meetings with SUA regarding alternative plans to an official homecoming. SUA coordinators were excited to help facilitate the larger performance events.

First-year Jordan Dotson said she thought the homecoming was a good way to provide space to Black students and other students of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI).

She said she thought the pandemic further isolated many Black students, Indigenous students and other students of color who often struggle to find community while attending predominantly white schools.

“I’m from Minneapolis, so I’ve always kind of felt this experience of separation from a lot of culture,” Dotson said. “I think for a lot of Black students, especially because the U is a PWI, seeing that there are experiences and spaces here that are made for us is so, so important.”