‘A family away from home’: A look into Black Student Unions across the 5Cs

President of the BSU wears a cross necklace and stares into camera with AirPods in
Precious Olajobi CM ’24 and other student officers at Black Student Unions across the Claremont Colleges reflect on the ways in which their unions impact their relationships and foster communities on campus. (Esha Champsi • The Student Life)

Black Student Unions across the 5Cs serve as a space for Black students to find community during their time in Claremont. Student leaders from Harvey Mudd College, Claremont McKenna College (CMC), Scripps College and Pomona College told TSL about their goals for their respective organizations.

Black Lives at Mudd

Black Lives at Mudd (BLAM) was formed by Harvey Mudd College students in 2015 to foster a community space for students of African and Afro-Caribbean descent, while providing professional and social support.

This year, the co-presidents of the group are Moyo Oyedeji-Olaniyan HM ’25 and Fred Bolarinwa HM ’25.

 One of BLAM’S goals is to ensure that members have ample opportunities to prepare for a career. To do this, conduct study nights and work with recruiters to host workshops.

“A few weeks ago, we had a ‘mocktails and mock interviews’ session with Bloomberg, which is a big engineering/finance company,” Oyedeji-Olaniyan said. ”We’re hoping to do more things like that.”

According to Oyedeji-Olaniyan, the group is working to increase the amount of resources available to Black students.

“It’s becoming a more diverse place and having a larger Black population, but sometimes we do feel as though the resources don’t reflect that,” she said.“We are actively working to find solutions for this not to be a limitation.”

Bolarinwa said that BLAM has helped him find community on campus.

“There are a lot of different students on campus that I probably would not have known if I didn’t attend BSU functions in previous years,” he said.

Oyedeji-Olaniyan echoed Bolarinwa, saying that her participation in BLAM has helped her build relationships with other Black students on campus and hone her leadership skills.

“I know a lot of people that are Black at Mudd and I can just go and sit down and have a meal with them,” she said. “That has helped me feel like I have a family.”

CMC Black Student Association

The Black Student Association (BSA) at CMC aims to create a safe space for dialogue and experiential learning for Black and Brown students and implement positive changes, according to ASCMC’s website.

This year, the co-presidents of the group are Precious Olajobi CM ’24 and Tiana Jackson CM ’24. 

BSA was one of the first groups Olajobi joined at CMC and it became a place where she could channel all parts of herself and receive support from a community. She wanted to have a role in creating a similar space for other students.

“I genuinely want the BSA to feel like a family away from home,” she told TSL via email. “We all experience that in different ways and we are always looking to cater to students in a way that is meaningful to them.”

The group collaborates with other affinity groups across the 5Cs to host events like the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards Party and the 5C General Body Meeting, for members to meet other Black identifying students across the consortium.

“One of the best parts about being an affinity group on campus is that we all share very similar missions and the missions extend past our own individual groups and immerses itself into the larger community,” Olajobi said.

The biggest challenge the group faces is engagement and spreading the word that BSA is for everyone, according to Olajobi.

“I feel it needs to be emphasized that Blackness does not exist as a monolith and BSA is a space that is supposed to be a community, a place where we can regroup and ground ourselves,” she said.

Watu Weusi (Scripps)

Watu Weusi at Scripps College, originally named Wanawake Weusi, or “Black Women” in Swahili, was renamed to “Watu Weusi,” or “Black People” in 2017.

“The whole point is to foster a space for Black non-men to show the experience and build community with one another,” board member Hannah McKie SC ’26 said. “Our mission really is to cross that space and uplift Black non-male voices.”

McKie values the ability for Black students to have conversations about their experiences within Watu and to foster a community of a relaxed nature. When asked about the impact of Watu on her identity, McKie stated that instead of changing her identity, her commitment to Watu reinforced her pre-existing values.

“A lot of the things that the group stands for and the group’s missions and goals were things that were already very important to [me].”

McKie said she wishes to work within her community at home in Brooklyn and bring together the resources she has obtained at the 5Cs in order to support the people who have supported her in the past.

“I think [Watu Weusi] just has been a reminder of how important and grounding being around Black people is for me,” McKie said. “My main goal is to make sure that I’m engaging with Black people in a meaningful way, so I feel like [Watu Weusi] has just been a good reminder.”

“I think one of the challenges that we face is that we aren’t always taken as seriously as other BSUs at the 5Cs, because we have smaller numbers — maybe because we’re the only BSU at a women’s college [at the 5Cs],” she said. “I feel like it’s kind of hard to be treated with the same level of legitimacy as other BSUs.”

McKie said that this was a trend that she noticed even before her leadership position, when she would notice comments from students such as “Oh, you’re like, one of two Black people” when the students would realize that she was from Scripps. She spoke on how, to her, those kinds of comments were invalidating especially in the context of being Black in an already minority space.

“When I spoke to other Black Scripps students about it, it was a common sentiment of not really liking those jokes and feeling like they had more potential underlying tones,” McKie said.

McKie emphasized the importance of acknowledging Black students at Scripps and respecting their right to gather in communities of joy and empowerment.

“There are Black Scrippsies. We’re here,” McKie said. “There feels like a divide between the rest of the BSUs and Black Scripps students, but I seriously want to engage with this community as much as any other Black student wants to.”

Pomona Black Student Union

Pomona BSU was started in 2016 as a way for Black students to find community and support while studying at a predominantly white institution. According to President Precious Omomofe PO ’24, Pomona’s BSU is still actively trying to create a community that brings together students of the African diaspora.

“I’ve always been in leadership roles, so it was just natural for me to seek that out within the BSU especially,” Omomofe said. “That’s how I kind of got to be in these leadership roles. [BSU] really for me just means community, and finding a home away from home in a way because within that community, that’s how I made some of my best friends.”

Omomofe named institutional funding as a major issue for BSU due to its growing size. She spoke of partnering with the Draper Center to host a Black youth conference that cost around $7,000. Despite the fact that Pomona did not approve more funding, Omomofe said that the event succeeded due to proper planning.

“We’re really trying to create a more positive relationship with the administration,” Omomofe said. “With all the big things we’re trying to do, we are definitely going to need more support.”

Omomofe stated that with her role as BSU’s president, she’s found the diverse forms of Black excellence that some would consider non-traditional. Finding greatness in artistry, music, and other categories, she said, led her to realize that greatness varies in many ways in the Black community at Pomona.

She hopes that students know BSU is “one unit” where non-executive board members can be active leaders. Omomofe also highlighted her hope that BSU events make attendees feel at home.

“I just want to really make an emphasis that the whole point of BSU is for the community,” Omomofe said. “[It’s] for everybody, [for] every single type of Black person to come together.”

Representatives from Pitzer College’s BSU declined to comment, citing concerns with the way they had been previously covered. This is TSL’s third article in a series profiling 5C-wide affinity groups.

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