There are over 400 student-led organizations at the University of North Texas, but the UNT Black Student Union, serves a tailored purpose to create an empowering community amongst black students on campus.
For a week-long Black History Month celebration, Feb. 20 through Feb. 25, UNT BSU hosted a B.E.T. themed celebration for Black Excellence. This included the “In Living Color” night of painting, “106 & Hair” Hair & Fashion Show, “The Get Down” talent show and a “Black Girls Rock” community service opportunity, featuring Feminista Jones, a Black author and social worker. The finale event was the “Roll Bounce” skating party, which had never been done before. Each of these event titles were inspired by the culture-centric cable channel named Black Entertainment Television, also known as BET. BSU’s unique spin on the abbreviation was “Black Excellence Transcending.”
Kayla Booker, president of BSU, helps delegate and inspire her executive board to create and execute any ideas they form together, with an emphasis on providing events for the black community at UNT. Booker expounds on what her leadership experience has looked like during her presidency.
“It’s been very rewarding and fulfilling,” said Booker. “Knowing that I’m able to touch so many students and make them have different memories and bond with one another, I think that’s definitely one of the things I love. Also, being an advocate behind doors, talking to admin, trying to get new things figured out and just being more innovative.”
Booker reflected on the success of this year’s Black History Month event planning, and compared to her predecessors, she credits part of the accomplishment to her push for originality.
“I think this week, BSU has done more than in the past,” Booker said. “I think one of our goals was to try to pack out Black History Month or create a week of events and I really stressed the importance of doing that. Also, I think I pushed it to be more creative an innovative of how we can celebrate our month.”
The highlights of BSU’s success in February didn’t come without adversity. But according to Vice President Kendrian Collins, BSU perseveres through roadblocks of every kind when planning events for the student body. It’s a process he describes as getting through the storm before reaching “the sunlight.” The motivation to see their plans through to the end is always the amount of participation at their events.
Collins said, “We had to make sure we got funding. We went to SGA Eagles Nest, and they were able to fund it. With that, we had to find a space where they allow skating. Inside the union, they did not allow skates on the floor with the skates that we got. So, we had to find a second plan for where we can go skating. The rec did allow us, and they tested the skates and things of that nature, and everything went well with that. People were excited for these events, and we were like ‘we got to show out, we got to pop out, we got to really give back to our students and just really celebrate black excellence.”
Collins, who works with Booker to come up with programs and support the executive board, explained that obstacles along the way to pull the week-long celebration off caused them to implement a key strategy.
“This week, we had a challenge, he said. “Some type of setback. My exec board, Kayla, myself- we’re adaptable people. This has been going on for the whole year. It’s about having that growth mindset and understand how we can work around those challenges.”
Throughout the night, the gymnasium was booming with students zooming past each other on four-wheel skates and trendy music played by a DJ on-site. Although the lights were dimmed, it was clear each skater enjoyed their laps around the gym, each one more than the last. These events were meant to create a space for Black students to showcase their excellence and make memories with others. Freshman, Jeremiah Eaddy, previously hosted BSU’s 2022 Fall Ball and recently hosted their talent show. He said the role he filled during the week was a unique experience.
“The hosting position, it was cool. At first, you’re nervous, but once you get into it, it was really fun. Everybody was vibing with me. We were rocking out, we were dancing, laughing and cracking jokes,” said Eaddy.
As a second-semester freshman, Eaddy said he will “most definitely” attend more BSU events throughout his college career. He said it’s necessary for black students to celebrate Black History Month together on campus.
“I think it’s especially important to celebrate Black History Month just to show other people around the campus that there are people who look like you, who want to have fun and spread light on the good side of the black community and not just all the bad,” he said.
UNT eagles that are small business owners, aspiring-fashion models, or just attendees came to BSU’s events to showcase what talents they have to offer and enjoy moments with other black students who share some of the same cultural values. Stephan Glass, freshman, recalled his favorite B.E.T. event being the fashion show and talent show.
“It was really good,” said Glass. “You got to see a lot of clothing brands that you never really get to see outside in the real world. Seeing other people bring up their own fashion line was very cool and fun to me.”
Glass said he is an experienced skater and welcomed the opportunity to teach his friends how to skate and do something that reminds him of family.
“It’s a great experience. It’s good to see a lot of black people come together to do something we all enjoy or all have in common. I felt like it was something that was very close to home because a lot of my family is in the south, and we do skate a lot in the south. It was something that I really wanted to enjoy, especially with friends that I knew that didn’t know how to skate. I teach them a little bit and make it a fun experience.”
UNT BSU’s organization not only creates spaces for showcasing talents and making memories at their events, but they advocate for Black students during several meetings with UNT administration. Discussions of issues going on on-campus regarding Black students creates professional and leadership development seminars, educational workshops, and social justice trainings, that are open to all of the UNT community to attend.