By Aniya Hatten
As Georgia Southern University continues to diversify its student population, the number of organizations for Black and minority students has been increasing on campus. These organizations have allowed students of different backgrounds and ethnicities to become unified and express their ideas or beliefs in a safe environment.
It wasn’t always that simple.
The university became integrated in 1965 when John Bradley became the first African American to attend and he was later accompanied by six other African American students. This incident was the beginning of developing a diverse student population. A commemorative marker was placed in Sweetheart Circle to serve as a constant reminder of this change.
Now, more than 30% of Georgia Southern students are minorities and 24.7% of that population is African American.
There are over 20 organizations that have been created to support multicultural interests for students on campus, one of them being the Black Student Nursing Association (BSNA) that was created in 2014.
“Our purpose is to promote and assist the retention of Black and minority students not just in the nursing program,” said Kayla Crawford, President of BSNA. “But also those who are trying to get in the nursing program or those who are trying to get in the medical field in general.”
While BSNA’s main priority is to assist student nurses, they also host social events, bonding events and participate in community service. This past semester the organization participated in campus clean-ups and helped someone in downtown Statesboro build a home.
Crawford said that she looks forward to the guest speaker that is coming Thursday because they will have the opportunity to discuss what their nursing experience as a minority has been like as well as the pros and cons of it. BSNA is one of the many multicultural organizations on campus that provide its members with academic support and success while creating an environment where they feel free to express their concerns.
The Men of Vision and Excellence (MOVE) organization has dedicated itself to strengthening retention, progression and graduation rates for Black men attending GS. This organization provides its members with leadership development opportunities, mentoring and support.
“The constant communication that the organization provides has been really helpful,” said Cameron Dadis, a member of MOVE for four years. “If you’re going through a tough time during the semester they are there for you…it’s truly a brotherhood.”
MOVE has consistently hosted the event, Barbershop Talk, which provides students with the opportunity to talk freely amongst each other in an environment where they don’t feel confined. Those who participate also get the chance to win a free haircut through raffles.
“We have the chance to discuss relationships, struggles we face in society or anything we’d like. These talks allow us to feel like our opinions and feelings matter as Black men,” said Dadis. “MOVE has really provided a safe space for us on campus and I think more students like me should take advantage of this resource.”
While MOVE continues to give Black male students guidance and refuge on campus, the African Student Association (ASA) is presenting all students on campus with the opportunity to learn more about African culture.
“Our event, Taste of Africa, was our biggest showcase of the year,” said Victoria Oyeyemi, Executive Board Member of ASA. “Students got the chance to see our fashion, our dances and taste the type of food we eat. So I feel like that event really helps us teach others about our culture.”
Oyeyemi said that ASA has also helped her learn more about her Nigerian culture through their bonding and social events. Although the organization’s purpose is to enlighten students about African cultures you don’t have to be African to join the organization.
“Considering the fact that most of us on the e-board, including the president, are mixed within the African and American culture,” said Oyeyemi. “We were able to bring in the best of both worlds where we still have our culture but we don’t make others feel left out.”
ASA participated in a few community service activities at a local church in Statesboro this year but plans to be more active throughout the semesters to come. They also have pop-out shows at the beginning of each semester to showcase the many different cultures of Africa through their models and dancers.
“We have so many Black organizations on campus because we took the initiative to create them and build them,” said Oyeyemi. “I think the school could do a better job with realizing the lack of multicultural organizations because roughly 20 out of 200 organizations on campus represent minorities.”
Oyeyemi said a close friend of hers is currently working to create an organization for all of the Black professors in the College of Education. Inclusive Excellence is a core value according to GS and these organizations have assisted in establishing this value on campus. BSNA, MOVE and ASA have been able to serve students’ campus needs while making an impact in the community and there will surely be more organizations to come that will serve to improve and diversify GS.