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BSU: Providing a sense of belonging for Black students over the years

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BSU: Providing a sense of belonging for Black students over the years

Asha Aden ('20) poses on the BSU car driven in the homecoming parade.

Asha Aden ('20) poses on the BSU car driven in the homecoming parade.

Photo courtesy of BSU Executive Board

Asha Aden ('20) poses on the BSU car driven in the homecoming parade.

Photo courtesy of BSU Executive Board

Photo courtesy of BSU Executive Board

Asha Aden ('20) poses on the BSU car driven in the homecoming parade.

Aidan O'Driscoll, Staff Writer

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Since its founding in the fall of 1968, the Black Student Union has served as a voice for cultural diversity and inclusion, while also providing a safe haven for black students on campus when needed — a place to converse and relate.

At its conception, BSU “felt that in order for them to have an active part in Luther College’s community, they had to enter it with a knowledge and pride of their blackness. They felt that they could best gain that knowledge through education ventures of, for, and by black people,” according to the Luther College archival research found on Luther’s website.

In this light, Jerry Hutch (‘69), Byron Dean (‘71), Augusta Stephens, Reulan Walter and Carmen Allison founded the Black Student Union.

Vicky Agromayor (’19) | Photo Bureau
Kim Stubbs (’78) and Caroline Cornelius (’78) reunite at the CIES student reception.

Going to school at Luther was challenging for Terry Ray (‘72), as a black man amidst a predominantly white student body during the late 60s and early 70s.

“People were novelties to each other, whether it was the hair or the speech,” Ray said. “Some people took it in a healthy way and others had to overcome stereotypes. If you were the right student, the Luther atmosphere was conducive to healthy growth and development. If you were not the right student, it was hell.”

The BSU was originally housed in the Black Cultural Center. Before becoming the Black Cultural Center in 1970, the building was utilized as the major music building on campus.

The BSU was a source of comfort for Ray throughout his time at Luther.

“It was a soft landing spot,” Ray said. “That is what it was for me. Not everybody had a stress free stay at Luther College. You could come to the Black Cultural Center and talk about it, and talk about how you are going to make tomorrow a better day than today.”

Professor of Religion and faculty advisor of BSU Guy Nave feels that BSU still provides a space to address experiences, some of which are undoubtedly difficult.

Vicky Agromayor (’19) | Chips
Greg Fields (’77) engages in conversation with current students.

“Students sometimes have experiences—frustrations, disappointments, anxieties, uncertainties, or feeling like you are being diminished or dismissed,” Nave said. “People may say things out of being uninformed, or being in a class where you are the only black person and everybody is partnering up and you feel like nobody wants to partner up with you because nobody wants to partner up with the black kid. These are experiences that many other students in your class do not experience.”

Nave appreciates being able to act as a role model for students in BSU. He found value in BSU and his role in the organization.

“To be able to empathize and identify with students and to listen to them and try to help them as they try to figure it all out is important,” Nave said. “I appreciate being a part of the work that they are wanting to do and the difference they want to make.”

Throughout Homecoming weekend, BSU hosted a number of events as part of its year-long 50th Anniversary celebration. Current BSU President Asha Aden (‘20) hopes these events will allow current Luther students, BSU members, and non-members alike to connect with BSU alums, to compare experiences, and to acknowledge what BSU has been to Luther and what it can continue to be.

“Making those connections this entire weekend will probably be the most important thing, so then people recognize the legacy that BSU has and our important role on campus,” Aden said. “It has played an important role since 1968 and hopefully that will inspire current students and future students to keep that going.”

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