A symphony of conversations and laughter occupy the SGA suite on Thursday evening as members of the campus community and the Student Government Association play board games, talk to each other and accumulate snacks from the table with party-sized platters of pre-cut fruits and family size bags of chips.
“Is it OK if I take more than one? Each of my suite mates definitely need these,” a participant asks as a basket filled with Black Lives Matter buttons makes its rounds on a table of board games.
As a part of Black Lives Matter: The Revival, a week-long event co-facilitated by members including Vice President Tim Hussey, SGA hosted an event as a community builder and social time amid the week of events which included programs focused on repurposing privilege, uniting marginalized members of the UNC Asheville community and discussing the importance of advocating for Black Lives Matter outside of events and designated times such as Black History Month.
“This week is a recreation of last year’s Black Lives Matter movement. We thought that from last year there was such a great sense of community among marginalized individuals on this campus and we thought Black History Month would be a great way to sort of bring that community back,” Tim Hussey said.
In November 2015, UNCA students came together to hold protests and discussions with the university about becoming more inclusive and bettering diversity on campus, President Charlie White said.
“There was a lot of education and protesting during that week, so we wanted this week to hearken back to that event while also incorporating community building and dialogue starting,” White said. “We’ve had two events that focused specifically on conversations about race and privilege and inclusion and the meaning of “Black Lives Matter” and what the term ‘more inclusive’ means.”
SGA took part in the week of events by facilitating the events and aiding in the planning of the events. SGA’s weekly senate meeting did not take place this week in order to allow SGA members the availability of participating in the week’s programs, White said.
“They made up a quarter of the folks that came to the initial planning meeting and they’ve been coming to the events this week,” White said.
Briana Joseph, a UNCA alumna and intern with the Department of Multicultural Student Programs, worked closely with Tim Hussey to coordinate the week’s programs.
“We had this Black Lives Matter movement back in Fall 2015 and we haven’t done anything since, but this is still important to us and it’s still important to our black students and we feel like they can use this movement as a platform where they can voice their opinions and concerns and feelings and also find a sense of community among other students who have similar feelings,” Joseph said.
Joseph noted she and Tim Hussey’s planning involved communication with campus staff about what would be important to include in the events.
“In our efforts to plan events for this week, Tim and I spoke with some people and they said, ‘I think it would be a good idea if you all planned an event that spoke to white people and how they could repurpose their privilege and how to advance the wellbeing of people of color,’” Joseph said.
Wednesday’s event, “From Allyship to Advocacy: Repurposing Your Privilege,” hosted a panel and focused on the need for active members outside of marginalized communities and how they could help. Pleased with the turnout and participants of the program, Joseph beamed as she spoke about the concentration the audience bestowed on the panelists.
“There were so many people taking notes and really paying attention and zoned in to what the panelists were saying,” Joseph said. “It seems like these types of conversations that we’re having through these programs are really what students and even some faculty and staff have a need for or at least a want for on campus.”
Mia Hussey, a participant of Thursday night’s event and a sophomore art student, stressed the importance of seeing advocacy for Black Lives Matter all the time, instead of during relevant events.
“I definitely think they should happen outside of Black History Month because it’s easy for everybody to support Black Lives Matter when a crime happens or when it’s Black History Month,” Mia Hussey said.
The two hour program did not fall short of activity and served as a light-hearted event amid a week of educational and informative events. The program also recognized the openness of the SGA suite, which spends its final weeks with the title as Highsmith undergoes renovations impacting the student organization suites in just weeks.
“We are very appreciative to everyone who has shown up and everyone that has been blacking out in solidarity with us, and we’re very proud with how things turned out this week,” Tim Hussey said.