The Black population at Chapman University makes up about 1.7 percent of students, with little growth in the four years that I’ve been here. I wasn’t aware of how much that would impact me until I arrived at Chapman in 2015.
The then-president and vice president of Chapman’s Black Student Union (BSU), Summer Blair and Aspen Spellman, sent an email announcing that the club was scheduled to meet at 10 p.m. in Argyros Forum 206C. It was there that I would find my family. It was there I would find a home.
So when I received another email April 1, saying that BSU might cease to exist next year due to low attendance, a myriad of emotions came over me. The first was shock. Where would Black students go when they feel like they don’t belong? Some of my closest relationships at Chapman started at BSU. There’s a special sense of community I always feel when I walk into a BSU meeting. It’s comforting to start the week off with a group of people who understand exactly what you’re going through. We often talk about serious topics, but ultimately, it’s seeing friendly faces that recharge me for the week.
I have to admit, after my four years of involvement in the club – including holding several positions on the executive board – I became somewhat of an infrequently attending member this year. Senior year is such a busy time and BSU just wasn’t a priority. Part of me felt responsible for the decline in attendance.
But the truth is, I was conflicted. I felt angry. BSU has been on Chapman’s campus for more than 50 years, according to The Orange County Register. Why should we allow that legacy to die? I have firsthand experience, so I understand that running a club like the BSU is a difficult talk. But how selfish are we if we don’t give Black students, especially freshmen, a place to call home?
This club has had such an impact and influence on my Chapman experience. On New Year’s Day 2016, I cut off all my hair after years of going to salons and getting Brazilian blowouts to tame my curls. Growing my afro out for the last three years probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t met some of the strong Black women who dragged me to BSU every week, rain or shine.
If BSU ceased to exist at Chapman, in essence, so would the Black population. I already know students who have left Chapman because people come here and begin to feel like they don’t belong, or that Chapman is too apathetic about racial issues.
When BSU met April 1 to discuss the future of the club, it was by no means the greatest turnout I’ve ever seen, but it was comforting to see that some people really do care about the future of this club. I’m happy to see that it will be in good hands next year.
The truth is, it’s not the responsibility of Black students to keep other Black students at Chapman. BSU is something we created as a means of survival, and while the work may be mentally and emotionally difficult at times, it is important that our legacy lives on.
As a columnist, I have chosen to capitalize Black despite the AP Style rule because in this case, Black is a globally recognized group of people that are marginalized due to race and often share similar experiences.