Editor’s Note: Our interview with the Southern Oregon University’s Black Student Union was pre-recorder on week 7.
Show Notes: For more information on SOU’s Black Student Union visit them on SOU Connect or on Instagram. The BSU meets Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Full Transcript Below:
Erika: From The Siskiyou News…
I’m Erika Soderstrom…
I’m Caroline Cabral…
And I’m Orlando Reyes…
is the Beak…
Music plays in the background
Orlando: Erika spoke with members of SOU’s Black Student Union or BSU to learn more about the union’s past events, future plans, and Black history month.
Sound of a BSU meeting begins and ends briefly.
Erika: So can you just go around and say your name and your position at the BSU.
Matthew: Sure, my name is Matthew East and I don’t have a position but I have a task that I am in charge of, which is the accounting.
Michael: My name is Michael Miller, and I am assisting with the marketing and the outreach of BSU.
Erika: And so what are some of the events that the BSU has put on this term?
Matthew: So far this term the BSU has put on some really cool events. We’ve had event such as a soul food dinner, which was a huge hit amongst the students and residents of Ashland in general. And We’ve also had a panel which touched on the microaggressions and racism in which people of color, specifically Black, people face on a regular basis. And we just broke it down.
Michael: Yeah. We’ve done panels, we’ve had raffles at those panels. And we’ve also done another panel that highlighted the Netflix movie “Dear White People,” and the problems that people of color face on college campuses and things of that such throughout our country.
Erika: And, the microaggressions panels can you both speak on that and how that went overall? What were some major takeaways and was it considered a success?
Matthew: I definitely would say the panel of microaggression was a success. We had about seventy people show up which was really cool. And and it was, there was, a very diverse crowd. Not to say cultural diversity, but to say diversity in age, which let me know that takeaways will be made from all age ranges, all age groups. And so, nobody will really be able to leave that panel ignorant, regardless of how old or how young they were.
But, some things that we touched on were just little microaggressions. Such as, letting people know when they say something such as, “Wow, you’re so well spoken.” What do you mean by “I’m so well spoken,” what else would you expect from a young man growing up in the twenty first century, who’s in college? Would you say that to my Caucasian friend over here? No, you didn’t say that to them, even though they’re right next to me and we’re both speaking to you. You only said that to me, because you don’t expect me, as a black man, to be well spoken. So things such as that are considered microaggressions, so we touched on those.
Michael: I wasn’t on the panel but being in the audience and the crowd, it was very diverse. And I felt like people actually were paying attention and learning and getting a better knowledge of the different microaggressions and how it comes off.
And they… some people asked great questions at the end and wanted to better their knowledge. If we missed some things, they were real attentive on finding out how to, you know, bring a change and help our community. Like, build a bridge, as you could say. I felt like it was a very positive event and we’re actually in talks of having another one in the spring, for those who didn’t attend or weren’t able to attend at that time.
Erika: Can you both speak to the “Dear White People” event, was that, a housing event?
Michael: Yes, that was a housing event put on by one of the leaders in the housing community and we just built a collaboration. They showed the movie and we were there to basically to break down how we felt about it and… The crowd was pretty low, but I don’t think we… I don’t think we told people, ahead of time, in advance. And so that’s why we’re looking to do another one and bring both those communities together. It was a success, nonetheless.
People who did show up really were attentive and asked a lot of questions and gave personal accounts to what they’ve been through on a college campus, and what they’ve seen in classrooms from professors, from other students and stuff like that. So, I think it was very successful, and we actually got some pretty cool shirts from it as well at the end, so it was an overall success.
Erika: So can you both speak to some of the events you have planned for the future?
Matthew: Yes, so… So we have a couple of things coming up for this year, and we’ve actually even gone as far as starting to plan for things for the next year, for the upcoming BSU that will be here, as a good portion of the seniors leave.
But so far for this year, we have some events that are going to be taking place in the library during the finals week or dead week, which we’re really excited about. Let’s see, we have some more panels coming up that are going to be releasing more information about as the dates come closer and closer, which we’re excited about.
The panels are always interactive and so as we give our account about how we feel about these things, the audience always has the chance to speak and ask questions, which is great, which makes it a serious learning experience. Let’s see, we’re going to be having another dinner-type event coming up. So, not quite the same as the Soul Food Dinner but there will definitely be some good cultural food available, and who doesn’t want a good cultural experience with some good food? And so that’s going to be an awesome experience as well. Did you have anything extra?
Michael: Being an athlete I thought that we should connect with our sports on campus as well so, I’m in the works with talking to the schools Rec Center to see if we can try to set up a March Madness basketball tournament. I remember last year BSU, I wasn’t apart of it at the time, but BSU put on an event in the spring and a lot of people said that they had fun and they showed up with great numbers and did a tournament. And so I was thinking why not? And so, I’m in the works with it and we’ll probably have the tournament in about three weeks. Because I want to try and get it before finals week, because I know a lot of people are real hectic around that time. And so alongside the library events that we’re going to put on, we can get people to the Rec Center, and build numbers, and talk to them, and communicate, and let people have fun playing basketball so, yep.
Matthew: Also, I just remembered there is one more thing that we have been discussing for a little while that we really want to do. So, Ashland high school also has a Black Student Union and we were actually just discussing yesterday, in our meeting, the importance of being able to link up with them. And really try to just come together and be able to even do like a big brother, little brother, big sister, little sister type of thing with Ashland High School. Or even just work with them together in general and show true Black unity and be able to work together and build each other up. You know, knowing that there are Black students in this area, which is not very culturally diverse at all, we need to come together. And so we’re currently in the works of planning something with them as well.
Michael: So on March 7th we’re going to have a collaboration with the dance club and hold a step workshop to show people how to step and build some rhythm and just, you know, bond as a community, and so we’re really looking forward to that. And we’ve been practicing day in and day out on perfecting it. So we just want to take what we know and give it to the community and show them it’s not just food, and it’s not just athletics, but we know how to dance and communicate with others. So, we’re very excited about that.
Erika: And then, is that the… There was discussion regarding a summit with Ashland High School is that coming up in the works?
Michael: Yes. We’re actually going to start this week, talking with the high school and seeing what days fit their schedule. I know that they mentioned to us that they meet once a week. And so we’re in the works of trying to build a summit which would involve a lot of the political science majors and… Because the way that we look at it is, the students on campus are trying to get a degree to be our next police officers, to be our next doctors, our lawyers, and businessmen and we want them to see that People of Color are struggling right now in our society, and we don’t want this to continue.
And we look on the news and we see all these negative outputs and stuff and we want to bridge that gap, to where we don’t have police brutality anymore in our country, and we don’t have racism in different aspects of our society. And so, the way we feel we can get a start on this is, first bringing in our youth which is our high school, here across the street. First build a relationship with the Black Student Union there and then once we have the relationship we can get a summit where we can show those students, yes you can go to college and you can make a difference in you community. And get a degree, and you can be our next police officer, you can be our next lawyer, and you can go about things a certain way to ensure that no one has to lose their life over something silly or…. just because you have a certain perception of People of Color. So, that summit is very important to us, so we’re in the works of getting that done. I don’t know if it’s going to be taking place this term, but it’s definitely something we’re going to have done before the school year is over.
Matthew: Absolutely. And just to give you an amen real quick. I feel like this is really the most important thing that the BSU will be participating in because this is something that could really be changing physical lives, you know? Things that we say or do in the this specific summit could make or break somebody’s future decision of deciding to shoot somebody or not because them being ill informed or because of a fear that’s been passed down from their parents. You know? But if they’re… like Miller was saying, if they realize that like, well you know, just because they’re brown doesn’t mean I need to shoot them down. Like, they are people, just like I’m a person, and we can talk out whatever the issue is. You know, I shouldn’t let my insecurity or my fear… pull the trigger. And so, this is just an awesome opportunity to reach out to these young kids while their minds are still fresh and they haven’t really been corrupted by the things that they see on the media or that they’re taught by ignorant people. So, I’m really looking forward to this and it’s going to be something big.
Erika: And can you speak to the BSU, Dance Club, collaboration that you’re both putting on. That the BSU is putting on.
Michael: Yeah, so the dance club came to us with, with this awesome idea probably about two or three weeks ago and they really wanted to connect with clubs on campus, so they came to us and were inquiring about step. Which is like a cultural dance, that a lot of Black Student Unions, and fraternities and sororities do in the South, at historically Black colleges. And so we were like, yeah sure, why not partner with them? Because we, right now, we’re in the stage of trying to better our community and our club and reach out to everybody. So we’re partnering with the Dance Club, we’re partnering with other clubs within the Stevenson Union. And so when they came, we were all for it. It’s going to be on March 7th from 6:30 to 7:30. I’m going to put a announcement out on the Inside SOU, and anyone is welcome to join, it’s going to be free. And we just want people to see that partnerships can happen and it’s going to be a great experience. I’m already having fun. I’ve never stepped before this experience but our teacher is a wonderful teacher and she’s showing us all these different things. I’m finding out things that I never thought I’d be doing but we’re all excited, so we’re looking forward to it.
Matthew: Real quick, shoutout to Jennifer, she is an excellent teacher, she is very patient and she has broken every single step down, helping us really catch the rhythm. Which I didn’t really think would be an issue but at the speed they’re moving, it’s kind of an issue. And so she’s really helped us out a lot, so definitely shoutout to Jennifer, this step dance is about to be nice, not doubt. Yes.
Erika: And the event is in order to, it’s to help raise funds for the BSU to attend a historically Black college, is that correct?
Michael: Yes. So our overall goal, this year was, in the spring, we wanted to link up with a Black student union from a HBCU, Historically Black College. To basically expand our horizon and see how we can run our club better, and better our community, better, even the state of Oregon, just West Coast. Because I believe that everything is connected, like a domino effect.
So if, in my eyes, if our club was to go to the South or to Washington D.C. and see a historically Black college. See how they run things, and how they keep it so successful year after year. Because they’ve been doing it for over fifty years now, on their campuses, and we wanna get our community involved and get our community on that track. So our overall goal, as I said, was to go to a HBCU. And so, in order to do that we need the funds and, all these events are just helping to raise money to do that.
I know it’s pretty soon, and in reality this might not be a thing for this year, but we are looking to take a trip, to a college to see how its ran. And so, if that means staying on the West Coast, so be it this year. But me being a junior, I’ll be back next year, and I want to do these things and involve people who are in our club and give them a way to see that it is possible and it can be done. And we don’t have to have such a small mind set about just Ashland, and the Southern Oregon community but we can do bigger things, and you know, expand our horizons.
Matthew: Also just to piggyback off of what Michael said, it would be such a huge benefit to us as a baby BSU, Black Student Union, to be able to be mentored by, whether an HBCU from the South or, one of the founding BSU’s on the West Coast, such as San Francisco state. There’s so much that we could learn from them, and we could only grow as a BSU, like Miller was saying, you know. We’ll be able to touch other people on a higher level because we’ve been mentored by a higher level Black Club. And so, which ever we end up doing, whether we go to the West Coast just this year because, it’s so much fundraising that needs to be done, or we end up being able to take that trip to the South. Whichever happens, that outcome is going to be spectacular. And SOU, will know. SOU will know, that’s right. Our presence will be made.
Matthew, Michael and Erika: Laugh.
Erika: And can you, both of you mentioned earlier, before we started this that we have a couple, you have a couple, seniors that are leaving. Can you talk about how the student union… this Black Student Union is going to shift focus and have new leaders next year.
Matthew: Well, I do know for sure that there are about three or four members of the Black Student Union in total, that will be graduating. And so, their positions will be filled, definitely. Such as, for example mine, working with the head of the Black Student Union, not the president, the head of the Black Student Union, Bathscheba. So my position with her, or, my job with her is just pretty much, working on the finicances and getting the budget together. So somebody would come in after me and step up to the plate. And so, that’s pretty much how things that are looking. The next people coming in, whether they’re here or they come in next year, they would just be stepping up to the plate, filling roles that need to be filled.
Michael: Yeah, being a junior, it’s going to be said to see them leave cause… and I’ve just joined about a month ago and, I’ve already, like, experienced so much. And everybody comes with great ideas, every meeting. And you can tell that everybody’s very involved and wants to see this thrive. And so, next year I probably will be trying to take that next step and take a higher role in the club.
But, at the same time, I’m going to send an invite to everyone: if you’re a person of color, if you’re not a person of color, you can join the BSU, it’s not just for Black students. It’s for anyone, you like, wants to make a change, wants to connect with the community, wants to just do good, as a person. We’re not going to put anyone in a tough situation where, if you join you have to do these certain things, that’s not how we run things here. We just want to get community involvement and we want to basically just expand our knowledge of ourselves, of our society, on our community, on our campus, because I believe it starts here. And so, that’s why we’re putting on so many events now, because I just got this drive in me know that I want to do something for myself and for my community. And, what other way is better than joining BSU and connecting with everyone else so..This is a formal invite, everybody can join, don’t be afraid. We meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, in the Stevenson Union. If you need anything, just let me know, my name is Michael Miller, I’m on the soccer team. You can find me and I’ll answer any questions, so will Matthew so, yes.
Erika: And can you both speak to Black History Month. Kind of just your thoughts on it, why you both thinks it’s important, or if you have any issues or anything like that with it?
Michael: Black History Month is very important to me and my family, every year we celebrate it back home. It’s kinda hard now that I’m here at college and home is seven hours away but, this is just the time where, we connect with our culture and everything we’ve endured as a culture. And, to see the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, all those historically Black soldiers, basically. And to read about them and see like the changes that they made, it’s really inspiring to me, personally. And I think that’s also why this is such a huge deal to me, is because I see that they made a change, even if it was really small or if it was really big, they made some type of change and some type of impact.
And so during Black History Month, everyday I try to read something new on someone who sparked a change. Whether is was four hundred years ago, whether it was three years ago, it doesn’t matter. And I just feel a lot of students hear that it’s Black History Month, but they don’t do the research or have the… I don’t know, have the knowledge that you would hope that they would have. So I feel like that’s kind of on us, to, show people like, this invention was done by this person and you didn’t even know but you use it everyday type of thing. Because I found out things that I had no idea and so I feel like this all just, a great time. For me, Black History Month is every month, but right now it’s especially important to celebrate it.
Matthew: I definitely agree with everything that Miller said. You know, and one thing I do want to say, first and foremost, is I’m Black every month, not just in February and Black history is made everyday. And there is so many, like, I you were just talking about, there’s so many pioneers and so many inventors and so many leaders in this world who are Black, who strive to make history. It’s not just people like Martin Luther King, it’s not just people like Malcolm X, it’s not just…whether you agree with him or not. Louis Farrakhan, it’s not just people like them, but there’s people like Iddris Sandu, for example, who’s like this, he’s like twenty two years old. He’s a tech whiz, he started working for Google when he was like ten years old. He does all the coding for Snapchat, Instagram and Google. Like this guy, is a technology genius, and a lot of this new technology that we’re seeing now, that’s coming out soon, and that’s coming out in the future is by people like him. And so it’s not… Black history isn’t something that pertains to the past but it is the now.
You know like, for example, Black culture in general is, what’s been poppin’ and what is poppin’ now. And so, it’s something that’s made on a continuous basis. And I think it’s just something that we should be able to really acknowledge for what it is, because a lot of, a lot of times, people aren’t given the credit that they’re due for things. And, a large portion and large portion of our lives is influenced by Black culture. A large portion of our lives are influenced by Black scientists, inventors. Like for like, for example, the stop light was made by a black man. Like, who doesn’t know that? A lot of people don’t know that. You know? But it’s just something we should pay attention to and specifically as Black people, we should be able to really just take a moment and acknowledge, like, wow, like, the presence of my people has been known here. It needs to be celebrated, exactly, and so I think, we should acknowledge Black history everyday, not just in February.
Erika: That’s all I have as far a questions. Do you either of you have any comments or points that you thought of that you want to speak on right now.
Matthew: Ok. I’d just like to say real quick, I really appreciate you taking the time to want to interview us, interview the BSU. You know, in the past we haven’t been too active but this year we’re really looking to shake things up and to really be as active and make our presence known on this campus. And so, for opportunities like this to get our voices out and let the good people know that BSU of Southern Oregon University is here and for anybody who wants to be apart of the BSU you definitely can do so. You can talk with anybody in the BSU, we love to tell you anything and everything you need to know. We meet in the MRC, Mondays and Wednesdays at 12:30 and we’re doing some great things this year.
Michael: And just be sure to follow sou_bsu on Instagram, we just made it and we’re just looking to expand it and that’s how we’re going to be posting on our current events and upcoming events this year, next year and further on. And, I just want to thank you for taking the time highlight our club. Just know BSU has big things coming.
Erika, Matthew and Michael: Thank you.
Music fades in…
Caroline: Here’s what else is happening…
Caroline: On Tuesday, Jackson county rejected the plan for the Onesite’s permit to operate a winter shelter from a semi permanent location at the Rogue Valley Church.
Orlando: Spring registration started Monday at 8 a.m. for seniors with 165 credits or more. Registration opens for students throughout the week depending on class standing and completed credit hours. Freshman with 0 to 15 credits, the final group, will open on March 8th at 8 a.m.
Erika: On Sunday March 3rd, State Senator Jeff Golden will visit SOU again for coffee with students 10:00am-12:00pm in the Stevenson Union.
Erika: That’s it for the Beak…
Erika: I’m Erika
Caroline: I’m Caroline
Orlando: I’m Orlando
Erika: Catch Sisk-YOU…
Erika: Next time.
Music fades in…
Erika: The Beak is hosted by Erika Soderstrom, Caroline Cabral, and Orlando Reyes. Produced and edited by Erika Soderstrom. Royalty free music by benson online.