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Members of Ebony Minds, pose for a portrait in front of a mural in the Ohio University Multicultural Center in Baker Student Center. Feb. 15, 2022.

Black joy through OU organizations brings students together

Black joy can be seen through many organizations on campus that foster connection and conversation within the Black student population, all aiming to allow for these individuals’ voices to be heard and seen. 

The Black Student Union, or BSU, is one of these organizations whose focus is to unify the Black student population on campus, as well as amplifying the voices of these individuals.

“I think that celebrating Black joy or amplifying Black voices is a group effort,” Alexis Thomas, vice president of fundraising for BSU, said. “As the Black Student Union, we try to host events to make sure that Black voices are heard, that we’re unifying the Black people, but it is ultimately a collective effort of the entire Black community and multicultural community here on campus.”

Thomas is an active member within the organization and is always looking for ways to acknowledge Black joy, especially after having struggled in the past with her self-identity. Her purpose now is trying to connect with those in the Black community on campus, whether big or small.

“I grew up in the inner city, and then before middle school I moved to the suburbs, which was a predominantly white middle and high school, and then I transferred here,” Thomas said. “Making sure that I see and that I recognize Black joy is super important to me because it happens, you just have to look for it.”

Other Black students at OU experience joy through the welcoming environment the university creates, especially through the events it hosts.

“From my experience being here at Ohio University, our Black population is not as big, so I feel in some terms, the Black community does get lost through everything,” Kayana Alexander, a junior studying psychology, said. “I feel like it's very important to not only acknowledge Black History Month, but also acknowledge that the campus holds activities promoting Black History Month.”

Alexander feels there are a lot of stereotypes within the Black community, especially being a Black woman herself.

“I feel like some people just think we're automatically mean … but Black women, Black men, we're all welcoming,” Alexander said. “Everybody has their own different stories on how they connect with other people, but seeing the Black joy and Black happiness here, if you look, the Black community really does stick together.” 

Meanwhile, the African Student Union, or ASU, is another organization on campus that is always advocating for the celebration and unity of Black student lives. One way ASU does this is through providing many African exchange students an opportunity to meet other students from the same continent.

“From the African experience, I can say that OU compared to other universities across the country is very receptive to African students,” Adelaja Oriola Oriade, the academic secretary for the ASU. “I think the university does enough so we have a voice.”

At first, Oriade reflects on experiencing culture shock when arriving on campus, but believes that OU has created a safe and welcoming community for students who are all from different backgrounds and regions.

When reflecting on experiencing Black joy, Oriade links it to acknowledging the racial history of the U.S. and moving forward from the past. He also said Black joy can be amplified by sharing and bringing different experiences together. 

“I think it's very important to celebrate and to embrace (the African community),” said Oriade. “(With) the history of the country, it's important to keep hammering on it. The reason why it is important to celebrate it is it's a way for America as a whole to look beyond the past, to do better into the future. So it's important to keep talking about these heroes' past from Black history.” 

Ebony Minds also supports the educational value behind learning more about Black history, crediting the increase in Black joy to those who paved the way before them.

“It is an important thing to notice and actually acknowledge because our histories, our ancestors, they worked very hard for us to be where we are now,” Alexander said. “Without them, we don't know where we would end up. We don't know what the times would be like right now.”


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