Black student union may return

Campus lacking group after leaders transfer

By Mike Thomas, Scene Editor

An effort to re-activate the Black Student Union on campus is underway.

The campus has lacked an organization for African-American students since 2012, when the club went inactive after it was left without leadership when members transferred out of Contra Costa College.
Kinesiology major DeAndre Russell is behind the attempt to revive the BSU.

“One of the reasons I wanted to get the BSU started is we need more leaders on this campus,” Russell said. “We need people to step up. It takes mentors to mold leaders.”

Russell approached history professor Manu Ampim to be the BSU’s adviser, and Ampim agreed.
Ampim said organizations like the BSU have a rich history.

“(The Black Student Union) emerged in 1966, and were led by black students from different colleges — they wanted ethnic and black studies classes on their campuses,” Ampim said. “All of that activism in the human and civil rights movement led them to create the Black Student Union (nationally).”

According to a San Francisco Chronicle article published on Feb. 1, 2010, Jimmy Garrett and Jerry Varnado first created the BSU at San Francisco State University. Their stated goal was to advocate for civil rights everywhere. Students at CCC value their ethnic identities.

“Having a student union on campus that is your same race or ethnicity means a lot­ — you learn to embrace your culture, traditions and even history,” La Raza Club President Jeannette Martinez said.
The La Raza Club is almost always active, and maintains a large student interest. The club is also diverse, despite focusing mainly on Latin-American issues. Martinez said the lack of a BSU on campus is unacceptable.
Russell is the only student presently trying to rebuild the BSU, but is willing to get all the help he can get. That starts by getting the students at CCC to understand the history of African-Americans, and the BSU.

“Right now the main thing I want is to give better knowledge of the African-American history, and I want to reach out to everyone and make us one,” Russell said. “If I can get the African-American students to buy into the BSU then I can get them to tell everyone else, but it starts with us.”

Members of La Raza credit their interest in the club to their adviser, Agustin Palacios. Martinez said being able to so easily relate to an adviser of the same background makes the club more attractive.

“Whenever you can identify yourself with someone with the same descent, it really helps,” Martinez said. She said having an adviser who is able to relate their own life and struggles to things their students may be experiencing helps foster a deeper connection to the club.

Associated Students Union adviser Ericka Greene said, “The BSU is a student club, so students have to take the initiative to start one.”

Ampim said when the BSU was active in the past, the focus was mainly on social events, and less on understanding African-American history. He said that he and African-American studies professor Carolyn Hodge’s main goal is to keep the club focused on learning.

Ampim said he is going to approach the new club members differently this time around. He said on the first meeting he would give a brief introduction about himself and the history of the BSU.
“We want (the students) to give their voice, and their opinions to mold the club­,” he said.