Black Action Society (BAS) is celebrating its 45-year anniversary as a recognized organization on campus, hosting events during Black History Month and the rest of the year to teach and discuss African American culture with others.
O’dell Richardson, a senior public health major and current president of BAS, said the organization was founded in 1969 but was officially recognized in 1971. The organization hosted an event where the original treasurer of BAS in 1969, Dr. Reverend Edward A. Scott, spoke with current members.
“It was definitely a great discussion with him, and an excellent presentation,” Richardson said. “He touched on ways to strengthen our foundation and talked about how and why BAS got started.”
Quiona Glover, a sophomore sports management major and public relations chair for BAS, said that Scott was in awe of the progression the campus has made.
“It’s great to see them come back and see not only the progress campus has made but the progress the population has made, the progress BAS has made and the progress that we’re going to continue,” Glover said.
While the organization started small, it now has 25 members and has a much bigger presence on campus.
Richardson said that current relations between students are good, but recalled a time three years ago at a BAS hosted Black Arts festival, where people were offended, asking why there wasn’t a white arts festival.
“We don’t want people to be afraid because of our name,” Richardson said. “It just hurt us to the core. I’m happy today because those things are behind us. That was just one of the main things that affected us in a way because we were welcoming to all people but there wasn’t a way to get them there and make them feel welcome.”
Richardson said that things have improved and that BAS is now more diverse, which is reflected in the makeup of students. The only issue now is that students are scared to talk and discuss issues.
“We know the things that are going on, we’re all human, we all bleed the same regardless of anything,” Richardson said. “We’re scared to push the envelope but we can be those liaisons so we can bridge those gaps. Nothing happens without talking.”
Glover said a lot of it has to deal with students being afraid to step out of their comfort zone.
“Even though we are an African-American organization on campus, a lot of white students wouldn’t feel welcome in an environment that is predominately African Americans. We are here for everyone and I feel like the name BAS throws a lot of people. That’s why I’m glad this year we’ve had a lot of white students, mixed race students and foreign students come in and see what BAS is about.”
Richardson said that one main goal for the organization at the start of the year was to make sure that students were aware of what the organization does, and that the executive board made sure the community knew them as people and knew their faces, instead of just looking at their titles.
Glover said that attendance at the BAS hosted poetry slam Monday night was high, with the room being almost filled. The group also ran out of food at their soul food event as well.
“We get a lot of the general campus population coming out,” Glove said. “We do have a very strong turnout to a lot of our events.”
Richardson and Glover said that there is also a lot of administrative support, with President Cheryl Norton, Philip Way, provost, and David Wilmes, associate provost for student success, coming to a lot of the BAS events.
“When we call them, they’re here,” Richardson said. “That’s the best relationship you can have with the administration.”
With Norton’s retirement, Richardson is also making sure that BAS maintains communication with the search committee and administration during the selection process, so it’s understood where BAS comes from.
Richardson will be graduating in the spring semester, but said that he hopes that BAS in the future keeps striving.
“There will be times when they may feel defeated or they may feel like they haven’t gotten anything accomplished, but I want them to keep striving to be great,” Richardson said. “We believe that we’re almost to that seal of breaking those stereotypes. That bridge is almost coming together.”
BAS will be celebrating its 45th anniversary on April 1 at 6 p.m. in the Smith Student Ballroom. The group is also hosting a Black Arts festival on April 20. Meetings are held every other Thursday in room 320 at the Smith Student Center at 5:15 p.m.