A crowd of students listens on, two leaders direct their attention, intimate discussion ensues, bonds tighten and friendships strengthen, the Black Student Association holds their weekly meeting. BSA members are proud of their history as African Americans and the camaraderie within the organization.
“My favorite little piece of Black history is the Harlem Renaissance. I ain’t gonna lie we had jawns jumping, man, we had that music, the arts, we was popping,” said Jayseph Compton, a sophomore science major who is on the executive board for the BSA.
Compton said before he joined the BSA he did almost nothing but sit in his room and go to classes, but he started to attend some meetings and began to branch out of his routine. He credits the people who welcomed him in and showed him kindness for giving him a personal mission with his role in the BSA. Compton’s role on the executive board is to provide counsel and feedback for ideas that are presented related to BSA’s activities on campus.
“I want to be like that for other people who just sit in their rooms all day just to come out to my event and have a good time and hopefully inspire them as I’ve been inspired to join up with other organizations that pique their interest, speak more often and other fun stuff like that,” Compton said.
Compton is not an outlier case within the BSA community. He is one of many students who want to establish a safe space for people who may be struggling where they can feel welcome.
“I feel like at TJC we feel comfortable on campus, but sometimes we just don’t feel like we belong here. Because we honestly don’t ever see a lot of Black people posted. Because whenever you see TJC, we don’t see Black people,” said Kishari Friendly, BSA president. Friendly spearheads the direction of the BSA as the primary leader, often coordinating directly with the advisers.
Friendly has prior experiences where she felt excluded as a Black student; the experiences fundamentally shaped the way she felt Black people are perceived.
“I felt like I was looked down on because I was the only Black person in like the organization that I was trying to be in. It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, like she doesn’t really know what she’s doing, we’re gonna keep her here [in the position].’ Like I applied to be a president for an organization in high school. That’s how you know, I just kind of let it go. But they didn’t. They chose someone who was more inexperienced than I was. And yeah, after that I kind of quit trying,” Friendly said.
This perception changed once Friendly joined the BSA, chalking it up to feeling like she is being heard and respected as a highly capable and responsible person by the advisers, who mean a lot to Friendly.
“I have a really good relationship with the advisers, and I can honestly say everybody in BSA has a good relationship with advisers. They don’t talk to us like we’re kids, they treat us like adults. We go to them for advice outside of BSA, like we fully trust our advisers with any given thing,” Friendly said.
Friendly compares them to an aunt or an uncle who you can tell everything to because they’ve helped her believe in her own abilities with constant support. Friendly said love is shared between the other students and advisers because the advisers want the best for everyone in the organization and the members want someone to help motivate them and believe in them.
Being in the BSA is also viewed as a responsibility and a privilege by the students who are a part of the organization.
“BSA means to me, that us as Black people, have come to the understanding that people look at us in a different perspective, but we can show them that we are not what they think we are,” said Dra’nalon Burnett, BSA vice president. Burnett’s role as the vice president boils down to serving as a point of input to the president and as an example of what to do for other members of the BSA.
Burnett sees the BSA as an opportunity to prove people wrong and dispel stereotypes that have been unfairly placed upon African Americans. He sees it as unfair to place a stigma on an entire group of people for committing actions out of desperation.
“I know, somewhere in our generations, people in our family were slaves or, you know, went through those things. As we grow older, and think about those things, and understand more about it, we can come together and talk about those things in a group as an organization,” Burnett said.
It is important to Burnett to talk about and pay homage to his ancestors and he says that can be achieved by standing together as a united front with the other members of BSA and helping each other.
“I’m antisocial, I don’t really want to talk to people. I want to stay to myself, but then I get into this and you know talk to people and then start expressing myself more as I get to know people, you feel more welcome when you’re surrounded by people that look like you and have possibly been through the same things you have been through,” Burnett said.
This inclusive environment is perfect for Burnett, who said he is starting to come out of his shell little by little. The people in the organization also help fuel his love for helping people that he gets from seeing his grandparents, parents and sister persevere through difficult situations by being there for each other.
“They just really gave me the courage and you know, the ability to understand and want to help people get better and to do well,” Burnett said.
He feels a responsibility to help Black people in particular because they are often victims of hate crimes and violence and this can weigh heavily on parents when their child is hours away from home, so he wants Black students and their parents to have a place to call safe.
According to NBC News “Black Americans have been the most frequent victims of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents generated since the FBI began collecting such data in the early 1990s.”
Feeling heard and respected by the advisers was also a big deal for Burnett and one of the main reasons he felt like the BSA was truly the place for him to be.
“They’ll tell you ‘He’s a strong young man who is trying to better himself,’ so they offered me to be vice president,” Burnett said.
Burnett and Friendly both mentioned the great synergy they have with each other, often looking to each other for guidance and direction when they feel nervous or overwhelmed. Friendly described herself as a people person while Burnett referred to himself as an introvert, and this dynamic helps create a push and pull between the two where they can keep each other balanced.
For more information about the BSA, visit tjc.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/black-student-assocation.