The Black Student Organization (BSO) celebrated their culture by educating Valpo students, faculty and staff with We Matter Week.
“It’s a celebration, but it’s also an acknowledgement of Black culture and also the struggles that come with being Black,” said Imagine Dempsey, BSO president.
BSO’s event spanned the week of Oct. 2-9 and was a combined effort between BSO and the University Programming Counsel (UPC), with BSO taking the lead.
“BSO is spearheading the event, UPC is providing the platform,” Dempsey said.
All activities from student organizations were required to get approval from BSO to insure a positive contribution was being made to the purpose of We Matter Week. The driving concept of the event was based on altering the idea that Valpo is exempt from social injustices.
“It’s important for Valpo to recognize that we’re not immune to systemic racism, student organizations are not immune to systemic racism,” said Kaitlyn Steinhiser, Student Body President.
We Matter Week was divided into two categories for activities: passive and active. Passive activities focused solely on the educating aspect of the event. Likewise, those participating in the active category spotlighted the listen and learn goal of We Matter Week. UPC’s Say What, teaching about microaggressions, and their viewing of Just Mercy, were part of passive activities. Whereas, BSO’s A Conversation on Systemic and Structural Racism and Student Senate’s Town Hall were classified as active activities.
The objective of educating students and staff was of leading importance to BSO regarding the impact We Matter Week had on Valpo’s community.
“Education is the best way to bridge the gap between Black people and white people,” said Nick Davis, BSO treasurer and UPC graphic designer. “We want everyone to see Black people as who they really are. We also want them to recognize the issues that are going on in the country.”
Understanding the usage of Black culture in day to day society was among the more prominent elements featured throughout the week-long event. Numerous components, such as verbiage and appearance, are lesser known to be derived from Black culture.
“Everyone’s Black experience isn’t the same, so we can learn from each other, and also students on campus can learn from it as well because they are indulging in Black culture: the different sayings, the different hairstyles,” Dempsey said. “[Black culture] is used and you don’t even know about it.”
The involvement of multiple, diverse student organizations was a priority for the overall effectiveness of the week-long event. We Matter Week saw participation from 20 of Valpo’s student organizations.
“We’ve kind of asked student [organizations] in a way, we’ve challenged them, to say how can you contribute to these positive dialogues around social justice and educating ourselves on the Black community,” said Lily Warren, UPC president.
One of the larger activities was Student Senate’s Town Hall session between Black students and faculty members. This provided a platform for the voices of Black students to be heard and for staff to listen.
“Getting administration involved, getting faculty involved, they would actually see the lack of support Black students have on this campus, the lack of spaces Black students have on this campus,” Dempsey said. “[Student Senate’s Town Hall] is one of the most important events that is going on this week because administration will be there and they can finally hear Black voices.”
There has been increasing support for making We Matter Week an annual occurrence as it has been deemed a necessity for Valpo’s community for future years.
“Every single event adds value to every single person that’s involved. The media paints us in a certain way, in a negative light really, and we just want to turn all of it around, show people who we really are. Every event I can relate to in some form or fashion. While reading the descriptions for the [activities] and listening to people talk, this is needed,” Davis said.