Black Student Union Cancels Assembly

The annual Black Student Union (BSU) assembly slated for February 27 was cancelled amidst what Tam staff assistant and BSU advisor Jewel Barrow characterized as “changing attitudes” towards the club.

According Barrow, this is the first time in three or four decades that the non-mandatory assembly has been canceled. “It’s been really hard for me because I’ve been involved in all [of the assemblies],” said Barrow. “Times are changing, kids are changing. Right now I don’t think that black history is something that they think about.”

BSU President Rokiah Kel said that changes in participation in the club contributed to its cancellation. “We got a late start on [the assembly] and we weren’t able to put together a program that was good enough for us,” she said.

Barrow cited limited club membership as pivotal in the assembly’s cancellation. Despite extensive signups for the club at Tam’s fall club fair, few students regularly attended meetings, a problem which Barrow said took her by surprise. “The kids are not there right now,” she said.

Historically, low assembly attendance has hindered the club as well. Two years ago, the assembly drew only about 50 students, and no administrators, according to former BSU president and Tam News reporter Wenlock Nau. “It was like [the club] wasn’t important,” Nau said of the low attendance.

In response to that year’s limited showing, a much greater number of teachers and students—in the neighborhood of a thousand, according to Nau—attended last year’s assembly, which featured a former Tuskegee pilot.

This year, so few artists and speakers volunteered that Nau and Kel made the decision to cancel the assembly.

Barrow, who plans to make next year her last as BSU advisor, will fight to ensure that the assembly is not cancelled again. “We will be back,” she said. “I won’t give up.”

Kel has high hopes as well. “I have no doubt in my mind that next year’s BSU members will be able to put [an assembly] on,” she said.

Recruiting incoming freshman to the club and inspiring greater membership from current students is part of Barrow’s plan. “It’s your history, and you need to know about it and be proud,” Barrow said. “We have the privilege of putting on an assembly. [Students] don’t realize the advantage they have.”