Black Student Union provides sense of family, belonging

Organization hosts empowerment conference, banquet to recognize supportive individuals



Black Student Union at WSU hosts the VIBES conference every year to empower high school students of color.

CHERYL AARNIO, Evergreen reporter

The Black Student Union at WSU aims to create a community for students who may be looking to be a part of one. The organization celebrates the success of students of color and creates dialogue surrounding their unique experiences

BSU is a voice for the Black community, which is in a predominantly White institution, said Sadarya Wright, BSU events and activities coordinator.

The organization’s bi-monthly meetings center around Black history and culture, although everyone is welcome no matter their race, said BSU President Mikayla Makle.

It is essential to have others who look like you on campus and who can understand your point of view, said BSU Secretary Yubi Lojewski.

BSU also hosts the Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students (VIBES) Conference to help high schoolers understand the experience of WSU students of color, Lojewski said.

“A lot of times in classes you’re in a room with 500 students, and a majority of people are white in there,” said Keiley Hampton-Pantoja, BSU public relations officer.

Students of color may not feel as comfortable telling a White professor they cannot do an assignment, Lojewski said.

Makle said students of color do not want to use the excuse of having issues at home, which a White student might feel comfortable doing, as a crutch for why they cannot be successful.

“We are all on the same college campus, but that does not mean that as Black students, we have the same opportunities as everybody else to get to that same point that a White student might have,” Makle said. “We do have to work twice as hard to get to the same place.”

People tend to come to BSU meetings to talk. They discuss the challenges they might face, which the students do not always share with their own families. It is a way for people to let off steam, too, Makle said.

Black Student Union at WSU provides a way for Black students to create discussion around the struggles they face and how people can be allies. (COURTESY OF MARIELA FRIAS)

Hampton-Pantoja said BSU is a place for people to feel safe.

The organization is like a family within the Black community, and they all support each other, Wright said.

BSU also hosts the Unity Banquet to recognize individuals in the community who have helped Black people, Lojewski said.

Even throughout the pandemic, Wright said the group has been a resource for people.

Hampton-Pantoja said BSU can answer students’ questions and teach people how to be allies.

It is important for people to realize that BSU has strong Black students in its cabinet. Makle said society has tried to bring Black people down, tell them that they cannot have powerful positions and that they cannot be strong.

Makle said she joined BSU because she had grown up in a racially-diverse area on the East Coast but knew that coming to Pullman would be a change from what she was used to.

Lojewski said she has always wanted to be part of a change, not just see it happen. That is why she has been a part of BSU since middle school.

“A community where you feel accepted, and your word and your voice are honored — I think that’s just beautiful to have here on campus,” Hampton-Pantoja said.