Black Students United has a long history of supporting students and promoting culture

Black Students United 2024

(From left to right) BSA members Donaesha Pressley, Daniel Cayton, Jamie Booth, Gennelle Watkins, Amaya Watson

January 30, 2024

By Walter Ryce

The mission of Black Students United is to provide a voice for Black students at CSUMB, promote social and cultural awareness, and foster relationships among Black students as well as students from other cultures.  

Steven Goings, a counselor and faculty member at CSUMB, said the institutional memory of student organizations such as BSU can be a bit obscure, particularly when it comes to origins.

“I do know the BSU has been on the campus since the late 1990s,” he said. 

He adds that it was a primary early force behind Black History Month programming, Black affinity ceremonies, Black fraternities and sororities, and hosting an NAACP campus affiliate. 

Vivian Waldrup Patterson, the director of Teaching, Learning and Assessment, said, "Research shows that when students are involved in student organizations, they have a much better chance of succeeding and graduating. They become leaders."

Though the group's past is hazy, the organization and its legacy live on in the present day. 

Jamie Booth is a senior majoring in psychology, the lead student coordinator of the Helen Rucker Center for Black Excellence, and the current president of BSU. 

She got involved in the BSU because, she said, “I wanted to build connections on campus. I moved away from my family and friends and you get tired of not having a nightlife because you don’t know anyone.”

Booth said the organization’s recent events included bringing local activist and mental health counselor Mel Mason to campus to talk about the history of the Black Panther Party, and 18-and-over off-campus parties the group throws, including the coming Freaknik 2.0. 

“Black students need to find like-minded individuals who share common goals and experiences. The BSU helps students find their chosen family,” Booth said. “You don’t have to be black to attend our meetings and events. We welcome everyone with open arms.”

She said current membership exceeds 100 people, but that turnout for meetings tends to be much lower due to other demands on students’ time. 

A meeting the second week of the spring semester drew six people to the Helen Rucker Center (inside the Student Center building). The center provides a supportive atmosphere, with cozy furniture, framed photos of past events, posters, artwork of Black leaders and a life-sized cardboard cutout of former President Barack Obama. 

Though the group was small, the meeting – in which members talked about reaching out for the support of faculty and the community – was animated by affection and laughter. The group has a history of putting in work that pays off, according to Otter Cross Cultural Center director Rudy Medina. 

“Last year's Black History programming was really amazing,” Medina said. “So was the All Black Gala and Black/African Heritage Affinity Ceremony. BSU members played a huge part in those.”

For the coming Black History Month, Booth said, the group is planning an event at the dining commons, a relationship card game, an outing to see the film “Bob Marley: One Love,”  and more. 

These events are opportunities to strengthen group bonds and also reach out to others on and off campus. 

“The BSU needs [everyone’s] support in order to make our student organization more impactful,” Booth said. “Join our group, find your chosen family, and make the best out of your college experience.”

Learn more about Black Students United at the organization's website