The Black Student Union held an event and exhibit in Mason Hall on Monday to commemorate the fifth anniversary of #BBUM, which stands for “Being Black at the University of Michigan.” The display included a large poster where students could share what it means to be Black at the University of Michigan in colored chalk.
On Nov. 19, 2013, BSU launched a movement that brought Black students’ experiences at the University to light, with the viral hashtag, protest and institutional demands. BBUM represents a watershed moment of viral student activism on campus. A “hood ratchet” party organized by Theta Xi, a predominantly white fraternity, catalyzed the BSU’s launch of the hashtag used in 10,000 tweets in its first two days.
LSA senior Kayla McKinney, president of BSU, said the event was intended to give students a space to reflect on the past five years since the hashtag began and also on the history of Black students at the University in general.
“They did a demonstration similar to this (five years ago),” McKinney said. “This was right after the Trayvon Martin trial, racist incidents on campus, so Black students just needed a place to voice what was going on.”
This dialogue gave way to seven demands addressed to the University. Many of the demands — most notably, the perennial ask for 10 percent Black enrollment — are reiterations of changes sought by previous Black Action Movements. These reforms include more affordable housing, a revamped Race and Ethnicity requirement and emergency scholarships.
Currently, Black students make up just 4.4 percent of the University’s undergraduate population –– a statistic for which the University received an “F” grade in a report on racial equity published by the University of Southern California. In October, the Bentley Historical Library fulfilled one of BSU’s original demands by digitizing over 66,000 records from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, making them available to the public. Many students have criticized the University’s race and ethnicity requirement, which still does not apply to some schools like the College of Engineering, for watered down subject matter.
The display on the posting walls also included many historical events and dates of importance for the Black community at the University. Education senior Camyrea Barnes, secretary of BSU, said history is an important aspect of the event.
“I hope this event brings back remembrance and a sense of appreciation for the different protests and demonstrations that Black students have done on this campus to create a more equitable and comfortable (campus) for not just Black students but other students of color,” Barnes said.
McKinney also mentioned that the timing of this event is appropriate for reflection with the initiatives to promote student diversity, equity, and inclusion having been established for over two years now.
“It’s a great transition year for the University, going into year three of the DEI and Trotter building on State Street, we thought this was a perfect time to have some reflection to see where we should be going,” McKinney said.
McKinney added in her experience, the past five years have brought some positive changes in interactions with University.
“In five years the University has become much more open to voices of Black students,” McKinney said. “I myself have gotten plenty of opportunities to sit down with the administration and voice what’s going on and be directly involved with the changes that are happening.”