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Student Organization Spotlight: Black Student Union

By Danae Moksnes

The Black Student Union is a fairly new organization at Bemidji State University that was formed to give a community and safe space for people of color, along with anyone who wants to learn. Zoe Christensen and three other women at Bemidji State formed the idea of the club in March 2019, and Christensen is now the president of the organization. Christensen shared that their passion and goal for the organization is “to always celebrate, educate and promote Black culture, Black excellence and Black success. We want to be that open space for people don’t feel like they belong”

Beatrice Kjelland was one of the three women that had the idea to form the organization, and is now the Vice President. She shared her thoughts on stating the club. “We thought, if we can do this, it’s going to be a great opportunity for people of color, and anyone else that wants to learn about Black history. We could all learn together”

The Black Student Union has held many events, including movie and game nights. They also held events for Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month. Kjelland said that her favorite event was a student panel named “Everything You Want To Know About Being Black But Are Too Afraid To Ask.” Kjelland said that this was her favorite because the club is to “learn from everyone’s perspective. We don’t want there to be any preconceived notions that people may have. We welcome questions, and we love to answer them.”

The students of the Black Student Union have shared what a positive impact the organization has had on their college life. Colbey Wadsworth is a member of the organization and said “It’s been nice to have a general sense of community with people like me, in a town where there are not a lot of people like me. We can discuss the different experiences that we’ve had and bond over that shared struggle.”

Kjelland said that this organization has given her many more opportunities to learn more and ask questions. “I’m still learning a lot,” she said. “Growing up, I haven’t had a lot of taste of black culture. I didn’t really go out because I wanted to fit in. I’ve learned a lot with our panels and events about what makes our culture and community.”

The Black Student Union has given many students a place to call their home away from home. Christensen shared the importance of the organization on campus: “I think it’s good for any race, any ethnicity, any identification group, to be around people that identify the same exact way that you do. That platform did not exist for Black students at Bemidji State. We felt like we didn’t have a place for our own culture.”

Kjelland shared that same sentiment, and said that with the presence of the organization, “There’s a feeling of peace and comfort that comes with knowing you’re not really alone.” With a laugh, Christensen said “I think it’s had a positive influence on Bemidji State, but obviously I’m biased because I’m in it.”

Christensen encourages any and all students that are curious about the Black Student Union to join the organization. “Definitely sign up on BeaverLink. Anyone that signs up on BeaverLink is going to get accepted, if you want to be a part of the Black Student Union, you can be.” With the changes of distance learning for fall 2020, the members expressed that they are still learning to adjust, but are planning to have monthly Zoom meetings.

Christensen also encourages students to get involved via social media. The Black Student Union has an Instagram account with the handle @bsunionbemidji, and they have a Facebook page that can be found under “Bemidji State University Black Student Union.”