YSU Black Student Union Has Something for Everyone in the Community

Youngstown State University's Black Student Union painted the rock and held a merchandise fundraiser for Black History Month in February. Photo courtesy of BSU.

By Emily McCarthy

The Youngstown State University Black Student Union has made a positive impact on the students and the community. Although the organization has existed on campus for a long time, it was revamped in 2016 and has since begun to grow. 

Lekelia Houser, a member of BSU since fall 2020, feels the percentage of Black students at YSU is low, and they are not always given enough representation.

 “The purpose of the Black Student Union is to create a presence for Black people on campus. It’s really hard to do that at YSU because there are very few people who have power on campus that are trying to achieve the same goal as us,” she said. “In every meeting, we update the members about events and goals and we always have a discussion question. The discussion question is always about current events about Black people.”

BSU not only directly helps Black students, but informs others of Black history and works to build leadership in the community. Kameya Parks, president of BSU, said the organization provides a way to bring Black students together. 

“We provide a safe space for African American students on campus to come together and connect with each other,” she said.

Serina Pipkin, vice president of BSU, has been involved with the organization since the fall 2016 as a freshman and helped the organization become what it is today. She said although they’ve been limited in what they were able to do this semester due to COVID-19, they organized many events in the past, including community outreach. 

“We have put on a veterans’ breakfast in the past, we also have done a formal for students, we have done a panel … we tried a speed dating program where we were just trying to bring other students out to meet each other,” she said. “We did a ’90’s party, we did a water drive for Flint Michigan, we have done a clothes drive for the homeless shelter here in Youngstown.”

Pipkin also said the organization is very unique to other campus organizations. BSU is mainly for students who feel out of place on campus or feel judgement and a lack of diversity. One common misconception of the organization, she said, is that only Black students are allowed to join. 

“We don’t discriminate who comes into our organization. Everyone is welcome,” she said. “I think that’s [why] a lot of the heritage students here on campus are so afraid to join us, because it says ‘Black Student Union,’ so they think it is only for Black students. We mainly focus on Black students, but we are receptive to anyone who wants to join and who wants to learn different things from everyone in this city’s background.”