TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s Black Student Union has opened doors for its president, Candace Allen, to the past of the 50-year-old organization and to her own future.
In the process, she and the BSU members seek to contribute to the climate of UA and to work for the benefit of its students.
“One of the most positive things we’ve done is increase our administrative presence,” Allen said. “We have become the primary liaison between the administration and our students. A lot of people don’t really know what that means. Through our intentional efforts, we advocate with the administration and offer them our ideas of how we can make this a better place. I’ve been able to serve on multiple committees, and I think having that relationship with administrators creates a better climate.”
Formerly known as the African American Association, the Black Student Union will celebrate its 50th anniversary with Celebration of Differences Thursday, April 19, and a black-and-white gala Friday, April 20.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with our alums and past presidents to help plan the Celebration of Differences and to gauge interest in the gala,” Allen said. The great part of this event is that you get to connect with people who were in your shoes 15 or 20 years ago.”
The Celebration of Differences will bring together the Black Student Union, the Zebras, BLEND, Better Together, Spectrum, and other student organizations from 6 to 8 p.m. April 19 at the Ferguson Center Ballroom. The event will feature showcased photographs, tabling from student organizations, a panel and poetry from the ASAP student organization. Celebration of Differences will feature light snacks and drinks.
Allen, a senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, majoring in athletic training and African-American studies, said she looks forward to meeting with alumni during the event and working with a wide variety of students, including those from Africa. She started with the group in her freshman year and served as treasurer for two years before becoming president.
“One of the things I like about the Black Student Union is that it’s versatile,” she said. “It helps with what students need when they need it. It can serve as a safe place; it can serve as a clearing house for ideas and a catalyst for change: That’s one of the best things about it. It is truly what the students make it.”
Allen said she is particularly proud of ONYX, an annual event at the beginning of the fall semester that serves as a meet-and-greet for the campus.
“It’s our annual back to school block party,” she said. “It has grown every year that we’ve had it, and the budget grows every year. And the impact that we make increases. It’s great to have something tangible that when kids come to school the can see that their community exists. Our administration has been so helpful in giving us the budget and helping us to show that we are welcoming, and our administration has also supported us through attendance.”
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.