During February, which is Black History Month, the Black Student Union and their members find themselves reflecting on the past and present while also looking toward the future.
According to the Black Student Union, the organization was born from the need to represent the voices and lives of the black students on campus.
On Feb. 7, 1969, a small group of black UNC Charlotte students, community leaders and civil rights activist Dr. Reginald A. Hawkins held a vigil near the flagpole to commemorate the lives of three black students who were killed in the Orangeburg, SC massacre -- a civil rights movement turned deadly.
During the ceremony, the American flag was replaced with the Black Liberation flag flown at half-staff, which would later be removed by campus security.
The students sent a memo requesting the replacement of the flag to mourn the lives lost. The flag was not replaced, prompting the idea for an organized group to voice the opinions of black UNC Charlotte students. The process of forming this organization would be a test of perseverance and patience.
Student legislators voted against the student’s charter to become an official student organization because of the ideals and values expressed. The black UNC Charlotte community then made a series of demands as an ultimatum that would attract the attention of faculty and eventually the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs on Feb. 28, 1969.
The Vice Chancellor agreed to a private meeting to discuss the demands imposed on the University, yet this perceived gesture of kindness was quickly foiled when the University pressed charges on the students, calling their actions mutinous. Counter charges were then placed on the University by the students as they felt their freedoms were being impeded.
Chancellor Dean Colvard became involved in the matter in March 1969 after a month of negotiation.
On Nov. 26, 1969, the Black Student Union was granted their charter.
Today, the Black Student Union focuses on fulfilling the mission set forth by their predecessors to combat institutionalized racism on the UNC Charlotte campus as well as the greater black community The organization has a goal of creating an internal safe space for all black individuals to grow and learn, as well as progress and elevate the black community as a whole.
“The Black Student Union strives to be a nucleus for black individuals and organizations on campus. Our mission is to encourage self-actualization and create the space for the free flow of ideas and perspectives by allowing our members to lose themselves of inhibitions imposed on them by an oppressive reality," said a representative from the Black Student Union. The black experience is by no means monolithic, but the ability to congregate as a kindred and support each other as individuals invaluably enriches our communal experience here at UNC Charlotte.