The Black Student Union announced the organization’s annual theme to raise up Black students’ voices within the University.
After more than a year of virtual programming and revamped advocacy efforts, newly elected BSU leaders said the theme, called Elevation Amplified, will focus on elevating Black students’ voices as the group looks to continue building relationships with key administrators. BSU’s leaders said they will incorporate the theme into new events hosted by the group, like fellowship nights and posts on their social media accounts to engage with the student body.
Gianna Cook, the president of BSU, said e-board members combined their campaign platforms as they developed the theme, and they plan to use the group’s platform for interactive conversations and a “holistic” approach to advocating for Black students at GW.
“For us, we all had community, we all had that enlightening and empowering of the Black community, and so it ultimately came down to merging all of our ideas into one and really, what’s two words that encapsulates all of what we were campaigning on,” she said.
She said she hopes the theme will inspire students to join BSU’s advocacy, encourage them to unite and enable them to step out of their comfort zone to establish the vision they have for Black community.
“What I would want people to take away with our theme this year and ‘Elevation Amplified’ is that you don’t have to feel like you have to be in a position to be a part of BSU, you don’t have to feel like you have to have something extraordinary just by being you,” she said.
Tony Peeler, BSU’s executive vice president, said after being disconnected from other students for more than a year and hosting events online, he hopes BSU will be “proactive” rather than “reactive” this upcoming academic year. As a part of this year’s theme, he said BSU will also ensure that administrators make all students feel welcome, building upon recent moves like renaming the University Student Center this summer.
“We’ve been gone for two years, and so much has happened during that two years, but we feel like our voices are being heard now and people are actually recognizing us,” he said. “We have so many more Black students on campus excited and ready to get started with the year and with BSU as well.”
After a year of bolstering student engagement with increased collaboration with the Student Association and initiatives, like the Big Brother, Big Sister Matriculation program, BSU increased their on-campus presence. Previous e-board members completed a strategic overhaul last year, leading to greater student engagement for the group.
Kylie Foster, BSU’s chief of staff, said this year’s theme will set the tone for the legacy that BSU hopes to leave behind after the e-board graduates. Leaders said they want to leave a legacy filled with hope and ensure they leave a safe space for other Black students at GW to connect.
”We really are in a position of wealth and power to really install what a legacy means for us when it comes to when we graduate, what we want to leave behind for the next Black students and the next Black leaders that are going to come after us,” she said.
Moniah Dailey, BSU’s vice president of special events and programming, said the theme will also encapsulate the collaboration that BSU hopes to have with other Black organizations on campus, like the Black Men’s Initiative, Black Student Athlete Alliance and GW Black Defiance.
“With the theme, ‘Elevation Amplified,’ I think it draws on an approach of a lot of collaboration with a lot of other Black organizations on campus,” Dailey said. “I think oftentimes, a lot of different orgs will come to us because we’re just the umbrella one, but we found that there’s so many other Black organizations on campus.”
She said programming this year will also include events with Black student organizations at American and Georgetown universities, like hosting an annual kickball tournament and work to represent a “multitude” of identities within the Black community, like LGBTQ+ students.
Telease Bowen, BSU’s vice president of marketing, said BSU plans to incorporate this year’s theme in a hashtag for social media posts on Instagram.
“We appreciate the generations of effort and progress, and as VP of marketing I certainly look forward to using my role to do the same during the term,” she wrote in an email.
Destiny Montgomery, BSU’s vice president of finance, said this year’s theme will also tie into programming and events that have yet to be developed. Leaders said they hope to elevate their standard events and begin new traditions like fellowship nights, an initiative started by Peeler and Cook after being elected to the e-board that includes general body meetings to recenter members around the Black community.
“Elevation to me is bringing something up a notch, amplify is putting it out there,” she said. “And I think what it means to me is, I want to bring the traditional events up a notch, so that those who know that tradition, it doesn’t get boring, it doesn’t get old. And those who are new, we’re going to amplify. So we want those traditions, and we also want new traditions.”