5C Black student organizations continue uplifting student experiences

Members of the BSU pose towards the camera.
Paris Primm PZ ’22, president of the Pitzer College Black Student Union (BSU), said the BSU has been a crucial part of her experience at Pitzer. (Courtesy: BSU)

Unyielding activism, fervent support and joyous events are hallmarks of Black student organizations at the 5Cs. 

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, Black student leaders have passionately steered their groups though COVID-19 pandemic hurdles, motivated to continue their existing traditions and innovate new ones. 

In part one of this feature, students from Pitzer College and Scripps College reflect on their personal journeys leading their organizations.  

Pitzer College — The Black Student Union 

Now president of the organization, Paris Primm PZ ’22 looks back fondly at her four years in leadership for Pitzer College’s Black Student Union. The connections she made have significantly improved her college experience, emphasizing the importance of community. 

“[The experience] definitely would have been way, way worse had I not been a part of [BSU’s] community,” Primm said. “If it wasn’t for our Pitzer BSU, but also the whole 5C Black community, I don’t think I could’ve done Pitzer.”

“If it wasn’t for our Pitzer BSU, but also the whole 5C Black community, I don’t think I could’ve done Pitzer.” —Paris Primm PZ ’22

Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, BSU has had to put a pause on some initiatives. For example, Primm could not host an event bringing local high school Black student organization members onto Pitzer’s campus. Personally, Primm also struggled with work-life balance issues, especially with periods of Zoom schooling. But through these obstacles, BSU has still successfully put on fun events.

“We did a [Superheroes versus Villains] collab party with [Pitzer’s Latinx Student Union]. That was one of my favorites,” Primm said. “ [A] classic, classic, Pitzer event is when we do collabs with Pomona’s BSU… It was really nice to do [Pomona BSU pool parties] again.”

Looking forward, Primm is excited about career-focused projects — workshops in collaboration with Pitzer Career Services have been in the works. She also hopes BSU will connect resources, like Pitzer’s academic coach and mental health coach, to BSU students. 

“[We’re] definitely trying to find specific times for BSU to use and learn about certain on-campus resources,” Primm said.

Primm still feels Pitzer can better support Black students. She thinks institutional progression has been loaded primarily onto students, for good and for ill.

“It’s like a double-edged sword at Pitzer. Students have a lot of power… but when it comes to the advancement of the Black student experience, that shouldn’t have to start with the students,” Primm said. “Responses to Black students should be proactive, not reactionary.” 

Scripps College — Watu Weusi

Polaroids featuring students lay on a table.
As a leader of Watu Weusi, Sydney Catherine Jackson SC ’23 aims to strengthen the connections between 5C Black student organizations.(Courtesy: Watu Weusi)

Sydney Catherine Jackson SC ’23 reminiscences on her initial exposure to Scripps. Before enrolling at Scripps, her first look at Watu Weusi, the college’s union for students identifying as Black and of African descent, was from a Scripps programming event for underrepresented students. Thereafter, her virtual leadership experience as a sophomore motivated her to continue, even with COVID-19 struggles. 

“We had a lot less members come into meetings because of Zoom fatigue,” Jackson said. “I don’t think [our membership] is the same as it was pre-Covid, but it’s come back enough where I’m satisfied.”

A repeated theme is the importance of maintaining community among the different campus’ Black student organizations.

“In addition to Watu, we promote all the other BSU clubs across the 5Cs. When [other people] haven’t been as involved they lose touch… [Watu] has helped me stay tapped in,” Jackson said.

During finals season, Watu held a relaxation event, handing out face masks and stress toys. Jackson places a large emphasis on mental health support, acknowledging collaborative efforts from groups — like the multi-ethnic group BLEND and the Scripps Community of Resources and Empowerment — to plan mental health programming. However, Jackson believes Scripps should better support mental well-being improvement efforts.

“We’re a little bit tired of doing it ourselves,” Jackson said. “We’re happy to do that, but having a little bit more help from administration would be much appreciated. It would take a little bit off of our shoulders.” 

Jackson also recognizes how the unique intersection of race and gender dynamics inform Watu Weusi’s activities. 

“Some of our issues are more centered around the Black women, Black female experience. Rather than opening up, we would rather have those conversations around our own subcommunity.”

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