Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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New Black Student Alliance Leadership Provides Support, Community

New Black Student Alliance Leadership Provides Support, Community

by Jennifer Spencer

A new crop of student leaders has helped recreate Fordham’s Black Student Alliance at Lincoln Center, building a strong sense of community and a forum for education and discussion. And they are committed to building a legacy that will remain for years to come.

Prior to the spring of 2013, the African-American student club at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus was called Molimo. While membership in all student clubs ebbs and flows from time to time as student leaders graduate, Molimo was in need of some fresh energy, said Dorothy Wenzel, director of the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development.

Wenzel worked with Sandra Arnold, senior secretary of the African and African American Studies Department, and Aimee Cox, Ph.D., assistant professor, African and African American Studies.

Together, the women worked to develop strategies to engage a new group of student leaders for the organization.

“We really worked together to hold events, get students excited, and see if some leadership would emerge from the student body,” Cox said.

They also worked together to change the name.

“I think the name Black Student Alliance makes the group more easily identifiable,” Wenzel said. “Students and parents immediately know that what this organization is about, whereas the name Molimo, while a wonderful cultural term, wasn’t as obvious to people.”

At one of these events, Cox and Arnold encouraged students to dream about what they would want a black student organization to be and invited them to sign up for leadership roles. In that session, Deborah Adewale, a junior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, volunteered to be president.

As Adewale recruited fellow students to serve with her on the club’s executive board and develop a roster of events, Adewale said that the need for an active Black Student Alliance became quickly apparent. An organization that had only had a handful of people when Adewale was a freshman began attracting dozens of students at each weekly meeting.

Adewale said she is able to see the impact of the organization on campus and in her own life.

“You see that there is a genuine need and genuine purpose for this group, and people love being there. I see BSA members around school walking together, and they’re friends,” she said.

“BSA is about building community. I think Fordham’s a lot about community and having people who you can grow with, who understand you and the way you are. That’s what BSA is—we’re a group of students who understand each other, growing together.”

Cox said it has been extraordinary to see the growth of the organization in such a short time.

“In the spring of last year, there really wasn’t an executive board. I was making flyers as if I was a student,” Cox said. “At the last meeting I was at, there must have been 30 students and an incredible the energy in the room.”

Recent events have included educational discussions on topics ranging from politics to natural hair, an African dance at the Alvin Ailey Studio, and a poetry slam and potluck. Adewale said the group is currently gearing up for a 1990s-themed house party and an alumni-networking event.

Faculty adviser Cox said this combination of fun and education is valuable to the black students on campus.

“There is clearly the need for a space to connect and to advocate, but BSA is also addressing the need to have a social space, to have fun and be yourself, and not have to translate all the time,” Cox said.

Adewale said one of the executive board’s biggest goals is to establish the continuity of the organization and foster new leaders. For that reason, she will step down from the executive board at the end of her junior year and let someone else take the helm. All executive board members will take other positions in the organization next year.

She said they believe this commitment to developing new leaders will establish a strong foundation for years to come.

“Once you become part of BSA, you have an opportunity to lead BSA, and continue what we’re staring. When I no longer come to Fordham, one of my goals is to come to visit and know that there’s a club that represents the black students on campus,” Adewale said.

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