Drewnell Thomas and Robert Pierce attended Valdosta State College in 1963, marking the college’s first steps towards integration.
Since then, Valdosta State University has changed not only in name but also in its responsibility and sensitivity to the students in attendance.
Organizations, like the Black Student League, were created by VSU students to not only help with the transition of life into college but also the transition to life in a predominantly white institution.
The Black Student League first formed on campus in the 1970s, “to promote the ideals of human dignity, respect, and pride, to encourage cultural and historical awareness, to aid and encourage the underprivileged and the oppressed, to attack shame and hypocrisy wherever and whenever it appears.”
Today, the BSL remains an active organization on campus. The BSL strives to not only acknowledge original ideals but also further a fluid transition into and throughout college life for incoming freshmen and other students, as well as encouraging on-campus involvement.
“We try and get students—especially freshman—to come in and feel like they are at home,” Ariel West, president of the BSL, said. “Especially with VSU being a PWI a lot of African American students feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to. We also do community service around the campus and try to be a part of other events with other organizations too.”
West, a health science major, has been a part of the BSL since her first year at VSU and president of the organization since the summer of 2020. West says her favorite part of the organization is the family dynamic.
“I started at first because of my friends but I realized there is a bond,” she said. “We treat each other like family. I gained a broader circle of friends in addition to the ones I already had at VSU.”
Like several other on-campus organizations, Covid-19 has affected the Black Student League’s ability to expand and do more on campus. The pandemic heavily affected the organization’s options with reaching out to students in 2020. Along with some current member’s comfortability with attending on-campus events and meetings, freedom of involvement has been the biggest obstacle for the BLS according to West.
Despite the pandemic, West has several goals for the BSL as well as its involvement within the VSU community.
“My main goal this semester was to have more events and to be more inclusive with the members within the organization with the executive board being more inclusive with other members of the organization,” West said. “As far as campus, we just want to get our faces out there as much as we can.
For students who wish to get involved and support the BSL be sure to attend the Black Student League week April 19 through April 24. The organization will be hosting several on-campus events nd students are encouraged to come and participate.
Written by Alora Bethay, Staff Reporter. Photo courtesy of Ariel West.