Meet the Black Students’ Alliance! We sat down with two of their members to discuss breaking down barriers at MacEwan, building communities and advocating for change.
Thanks for joining us! For our readers, please introduce yourselves.
Chioma: Thank you! My name is Chioma, and I’m a third-year Bachelor of Psychology major.
Rayyah: Great to be here! I’m Rayyah, the President and Founder of the BSA and a fourth-year Bachelor of Psychology student.
What is the Black Students’ Alliance, and what do you do?
Rayyah: We’re a student group at MacEwan University that works to create safe spaces for black students to engage with each other and share their culture with students who would like to come into that space. We want to give a voice to the issues that black students face on campus.
Chioma: For us, it’s all about advocacy and creating togetherness. We want black students to feel like they can express themselves!
You recently received the New Student Group of the Year Award at the SAMU Awards; congratulations! What does this mean for your group?
Rayyah: Thanks! It’s an important acknowledgement of our work for our community. However, it’s also motivation to keep going. This award means we’ve been recognized and are on the right course, but the work hasn’t stopped.
Chioma: It was so gratifying. This award is an affirmation that shows we’ve met our goals! It can be challenging for students to meet people and get involved on campus, so we are proud of this recognition of our work for the black community.
Why did you start the BSA?
Rayyah: I started the group with some friends last year after reflecting on the experience of black MacEwan students. Racism in Canada is institutionalized, often resulting in numerous microaggressions against us. I would look around me and wonder, why aren’t more black students in my classes or on campus? I realized I wanted to create a space where black students can share their experiences and find community while we work with MacEwan and SAMU to break down the barriers that impact us every day.
Chioma: I wanted to join the BSA for many of the same reasons. In my first year at MacEwan, I didn’t see many black students (or other students, for that matter) interacting with each other as a community. Many would just split off into their groups. I wanted to create more opportunities for students to make friends, build community, and have a better university experience.
Tell us about an event or initiative your group hosted that you’re proud of.
Chioma: We’re proud of our debate nights! We started hosting them because we noticed that some students felt shy or like others might judge them while sharing their opinions and experiences. The debate nights enabled them to come into a room and share their thoughts without fear of judgement. We’re looking forward to hosting more in the coming year!
Rayyah: We also hosted a misogynoir event to support internal and external advocacy for black students. Misogynoir exists at the intersection of misogyny and racism and speaks to the unique oppression that black women and black trans women face. We felt it important to address this topic and share its impacts because it exists both within the black community and externally. By bringing attention to this issue at MacEwan, we can create more support for these communities and more opportunities for advocacy.
What is your favourite part of being a member of the BSA?
Rayyah: I love to see the unity and passion of our group members. Everyone is excited to get involved and be engaged. We’re so happy with the initial interest in our group!
Chioma: It’s fantastic to see people interact with each other and build a larger, more connected community on our campus. We’ve also received great feedback from members and our community, and we’re working to create more internal opportunities for students to make a meaningful impact and become even more engaged. I also love to see how many friendships are started by these opportunities!
What’re you looking forward to for your group in the new school year?
Rayyah: We’ve got a ton going on behind the scenes. Recently, we received a community grant from MacEwan that will enable us to start a Black change council. The goal of this council will be to get a broader range of opinions from students that we can summarize and prepare in a report. We’ll then submit this report to MacEwan at the end of the term. I’m looking forward to how it’ll impact our ability to advocate for change.
We’re also excited to continue with our popular book club event and debate nights, our upcoming Learn About Natural Hair Day, and planning a gala!
Chioma: A big focus for us will be to make many events recurring, such as the book club. We’re also looking forward to planning many of the events we couldn’t do last year. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish with our new executive team!
What would you say to someone considering starting or joining a Student Group?
Rayyah: Do it! Founding a group can take a lot of work, and you’ll need to do a lot of research. I joined a group before I founded the BSA, and it helped a lot to give me the experience and knowledge to start my own. I would also say not to limit yourself; I’m part of three other groups, and it’s been a great way to meet others and get involved.
Chioma: Joining a group as an executive or in a minor position gives you the skills to start and run your own. You’ll also meet people with similar interests; that shared passion is essential for creating something! However you decide to get involved, it’s a fantastic opportunity for all students.
You can connect with the Black Students’ Alliance on social media through Instagram (@bsa.macewan), TikTok (@bsamacewanu) and their Discord channel.
Follow SAMU on social media through Instagram (@sa_macewan), Twitter (@SAMacEwan), and Facebook (Students’ Association of MacEwan University) to stay up to date on the latest events, programs, and services from your students’ association.