Marquette University has agreed to plans of action put forth by the campus’ Black Student Union, to create a more welcoming and inclusive space for Black students – on campus and in the city. The plans include full-ride scholarships, a permanent cultural center for Black students, and programs dedicated to raising awareness of bias, harassment and discrimination faced by diverse student populations.
Breanna Flowers is president and Lazabia Jackson is vice president of Black Student Council (BSC), one of the groups part of the Black Student Union. We spoke with them about the preparation that led to the university agreeing to their demands.
One driving force, Jackson says, was the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
"It kinda sparked us that if we’re dealing with all these outside forces of like America in itself, we couldn’t go for that on the campus," Jackson says.
In an effort to support Black students, he says the university reached out to the BSC to hear about members' campus experiences. But members of BSC thought it was for show.
"It was like a chalk up event and it was like people just writing Black Lives Matter on different chalk and everything. But when we went there, we went with radical truth," Jackson says. "We both gave powerful speeches, Bre and I, and we was able to speak this truth in a radical form where we got the attention of the president."
But the summer planning didn't stop there. Flowers says research was part of their strategy, including on how other universities made a concerted effort to draw in and maintain Black students, and the support available for Black students on those campuses.
For example, Flowers says, "To see Chicago being in the top 25 – Loyola, Chicago University, Northwestern – all these schools in the top 25 in the Midwest and to see they were actually pulling in Black students and we’re like why can we not mimic that?"
Jackson adds that they were also studying revolutionary leaders in preparation.
"One of the most powerful things we realized was the Black Panthers began on a college campus and it was Merit College. So, what we did was, we just came together and we figured out what we envisioned," Jackson says. "And that’s what we basically shared with them, our vision for what we see that’s gonna happen and what they can do, and what they need to do."
Both Jackson and Flowers hope young people coming in after them will continue to fight for change that they deem necessary for the students on campus.
"I always say that a lot of the things that we fought for, me and Lazabia may not be able to see, but it will impact the future — especially in the city, especially coming from Milwaukee," Flowers says. "And you see Marquette just kinda overlook Black kids in its city, want to go out and recruit in other cities for Black children, and you know, you always wonder like what’s wrong with the kids here? What’s wrong with the students here in the city? Why don’t ya’ll want to invest in us?"
Flowers says what the Black Student Union is doing now will make leaders want to invest in young Black people.
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