The upcoming academic year marks a historic milestone for Kenyon: the founding of the Black Student Union (BSU). Established in 1970, the BSU addressed the need for support for the growing number of black students at Kenyon.
A celebratory weekend in honor of the BSU’s 50th anniversary will be held Sept. 27-29, 2019 (Kenyon's Homecoming Weekend), sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement and the Office of the President.
View the preliminary schedule | Register now though Kenyon's Homecoming Weekend form
Several students came together in the fall of 1969 to deliver four demands to the College’s administration: academic courses dealing with the black experience, black upper-class counselors, BSU representation on the Admissions Committee and a BSU gathering place. With a charter membership of 17 students, the new group established its home in the Ujima Imani Lounge on the second floor of Peirce Hall. (Ujima is the Swahili word for collective work; Imani is the word for faith.)
“The BSU’s goal then was to bring visibility to the culture, history, struggle and scholarship of black people nationally and globally and, more crucially, to emphasize the importance of recruiting and retaining African American students at Kenyon,” said Geri Coleman Tucker ’74, a founding member of the organization. “The ’70s were a turbulent time of major civil and social unrest. When we were shunned or ignored by others on campus, the BSU and the BSU Lounge provided a safe space to talk about the issues of relevance to us and the larger black community.”
Eugene Peterson ’70, also a founding member of BSU, recalled wanting and needing “a place where the few of us on campus could go to escape the pressures of feeling alone, separated from our culture.”
“The BSU lounge,” he added, “was a place where we could celebrate our blackness and share ways to cope in a majority white environment.” The lounge was rededicated in a ceremony during the BSU’s 45th anniversary in 2015.