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The members of the Black Student Union stand outside Mesa Vista Hall. Photo courtesy of the BSU.

Black Student Union builds community through outreach, education and advocacy

The Black Student Union, a Black student organization in the African American Student Services department at the University of New Mexico, aims to foster community for Black students through a combination of outreach, education and advocacy work. The BSU offers a space for Black students to connect with community, both on campus and across the city, according to Nakia Jackson: BSU president and UNM junior majoring in signed language interpretation.

“The goal of the Black Student Union is to create an environment for Black students on campus to form a community. We represent the interests and concerns of Black students at UNM; our goal is to unify, educate and empower the Black student body at the University of New Mexico and be a central point for students to come together,” Jackson said.

Jackson first joined the Black Student Union to stay involved with African American Student Services at UNM after going through their summer bridge program, in which incoming Black undergraduates are able to come early and meet other Black students as well as take a course on navigating a variety of situations that might arise during their time on campus. The experience was invaluable, according to Monice Aguilar, UNM junior, biology pre-med student and fellow member of the BSU.

“It was kind of like the stepping stone into college; a lot of the people who were in my bridge group also went on to joining our BSU or joining some of the other organizations we have through African American Student Services. It’s really an opportunity for students to get a preparatory (look) into what college life is like and get acclimated by meeting some new students before you even start your first day of classes,” Aguilar said.

The advocacy and community work of BSU also offers students the opportunity to network with others of similar professional background and interests — one goal is to assist Black students with networking and building connections in their field, according to Aguilar.

“The BSU serves as a platform to advocate for students and for students to build off of, so a lot of the leaders who have came into our organization were able to find leadership roles outside in other areas, especially those related to their majors and career paths,” Aguilar said.

This year, Jackson and the BSU are focusing on broadening their community engagement efforts following the social distancing era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My role this year has been transitioning from the ways we were deep into the pandemic and trying to get more engaged on campus … We’re starting to do more community engagement, that’s something we’ve been working on,” Jackson said.

Part of this outreach involves working with other students and Black student unions at high schools in the broader Albuquerque community; it was through a connection between the UNM BSU and her high school’s BSU that Aguilar was first introduced to African American Student Services at UNM.

“I loved being involved with my fellow individuals in the community, especially students, so when I found out that UNM had a strong BSU as well, I knew I wanted to get involved and be engaged with like-minded people who had the same goals and focuses as myself,” Aguilar said. “By joining, I was able to have these people who are all pursuing these amazing interests, community service, all these things I was able to participate in and further support, and that was one of the most amazing things I’ve gained from them so far.”

As a high school student, Aguilar had felt disconnected from the college students in her community, but through working with high schools and the BSU, she hopes to increase the cross-generational connection and communication to form a more complete community in Albuquerque.

The Black Student Union meets Thursdays at 2 p.m. in the African American Student Services Lounge. They can be reached on Instagram @bsu.unm.

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“We aren’t the only group advocating for Black or African American students on campus; that’s the amazing part of the diverse groups we have here at UNM. We have the Powerful Movement of Educated Sistas, Brothers Leading and Cultivating Knowledge, National Society of Black Engineers and True Colors… all of these orgs are centered in African American Student Services and are led by such amazing students trying to put in that work for the change we want to see on campus and change we want to see in our communities,” Aguilar said.

Spenser Willden is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on twitter @spenserwillden 

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