The Black Student Union at VWU was created so that Black students could have a voice or be seen and heard on campus. This organization is overseen by President Michael Perry and Vice President Monique Ayers.
The Black Student Union’s slogan is, “Made by Black Students for all Students.” Perry lives by this slogan and says it is something that an organization as a whole holds very close to their hearts. Ayers believes that it is action and conversation that will dismantle racism. “It is hard to some, and easy to others, to start that conversation and I think a great deal of that has to do with receptiveness–people will listen and believe and understand the things they want to,” Ayers said.
“A lot of times people are afraid to have a conversation about race, however, I believe it is paramount in seeing the other side’s point of view. If people are scared to talk about race then no progress will be made in repairing our nation,” Perry said. “As the President of the Black Student Union, Black History Month means everything not just to me but to a lot of people of different races across the country.”
Underwood’s values line up with the values of the Black Student Union on campus. The BSU statement says, “Our core values are unity, vocalizing, action, and solidarity. Because of that, we strive to be the voice of the African American student body at Virginia Wesleyan University and to provide cultural, social, and academic activities that promote unity and solidarity.”
The Black Student Union reaches out to people of all colors. “Sometimes we have to get creative, whether that’s changing legislative law or hosting events to reach new people who want to learn and know more but don’t know how to approach that way of learning because action is important,” Ayers said. One important goal that the Black Student Union strives for is forming coalitions. “Creating coalitions between other student organizations to combat institutional acts of racism as well as individual acts in order to improve communities around them,” Perry said.
Underwood started her discussion with the quote, “Black History is American History.” Ayers reinforced this idea by saying, “Everyday black people make history and this history is important because we had no other choice than to step up against so much adversary in order to either create our own so that we could use or to show the world that we can.”
Ayers believes that racism is constructive and systematic so we have to change the way people can do things, but we also have to have that conversation as to why things were changed. Racism is real and visible in our society. Starting the conversation and leaning into the discomfort of race is the stepping stone to a more inclusive society. In the words of Underwood, acts of kindness are how we make a change.