Student leaders and officials welcomed Black students to GW Saturday at a virtual convocation organized by the Black Student Union.
The 20-minute video included advice and insight about GW from leaders of several Black student organizations and administrators, like Provost Brian Blake and Jordan West, the director for diversity and inclusion education. Speakers encouraged students to stay engaged with the GW community and get politically active.
BSU President Devon Bradley opened the program, highlighting reform that Black students on campus have pushed for and encouraging students to use their “personal power” to make a change in the GW community.
“Personal power does not require nor hold a specific title,” Bradley said. “President. Janitorial staff member. Adjunct professor. Attorney. No manufactured title can define nor guarantee it. It is only when each of us have done right by our peers and loved ones that we can access our personal power.”
Blake, the provost, encouraged students to make the most out of their college experience, which he said was the time he pledged his fraternity and met the woman who would become his wife.
“This group in particular is really dear to my heart because you bring so much diversity to this campus,” Blake said. “You make our conversations so rich. When I engage with our Black Student Union, it just reminds me of my own background. It reminds me of what I feel for the world.”
He encouraged students to be politically active and find ways to improve the common good of the country and the world.
“Celebrate the richness of your diversity,” he said. “I think it’s important that your individuality shows up because in that you bring our entire community more expertise, more experience, and don’t take anything less than equity and inclusion.”
West, the director for diversity and inclusion education, encouraged students to make a commitment to improving themselves and the communities they’re a part of.
“I believe it is my role to imagine and create the university that our Black students deserve,” West said. “I hope to remove any obstacles in your way that prevent you from dreaming and achieving those dreams while you’re a student here at GW.”
West reminded incoming students that their peers and GW’s faculty and staff are there to support them.
“While we don’t know what tomorrow may bring, trust that feeling inside you that says ‘I was built to do this. I’m meant to be here. I deserve this,’” she said. “And know that you have your ancestors in your veins, by your side and carrying you right along.”
Student Association President Howard Brookins said the “strength and unity” of the Black community at GW inspired him to run for SA president. He said GW’s Black community has been at the forefront of positive change on campus, despite the challenges that Black students face at a predominantly White institution.
“I assure you, however, that the solidarity and leadership of the Black community will be a constant source of strength and comfort to you, as it is for me,” Brookins said.