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Black Student Alliance provides supportive space for Spalding students

Steve Jones

Spalding University is spotlighting members of its campus community every Friday during Black History Month, including, this week, the Black Student Alliance student organization. 

Since 2018, the Black Student Alliance (BSA) has existed at Spalding to provide advocacy and a social network for Black students as they navigate college.

During a year in which Louisville and the country have been focused strongly on issues related to racial equity and justice, the BSA has provided an important space for students of color to communicate with each other and feel supported.

“We have been able to provide a sense of community for Black and Brown students on campus,” said Savasia Thompson, who is in her second year as BSA President. “Especially now and recently, with the Black Lives Matter protests and the death of Breonna Taylor, we have just been trying to support. … We try to touch Spalding’s Black and Brown populations in several ways – socially, educationally. We know there are lots of issues our students are facing, and we are trying to help supplement and create resolutions for that.”

Thompson, a senior majoring in creative writing, said the organization has advocated on behalf of Black students on issues around campus while always working to promote a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The BSA also hosted a welcoming mixer last fall for first-year students of color to meet each other and faculty members, and Thompson said the BSA has supported the enhancement of the Pelican Pantry as resource for any member of the Spalding community who be experiencing food insecurity.

The organization also sponsors educational programming throughout the year, with one of its signature events on tap next week – a virtual edition of the third annual Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African American Studies. The conference, named for the 1953 Spalding (then Nazareth College) grad who became the first Black chemist at Brown-Forman as well as a highly accomplished artist, will take place Wednesday-Thursday, Feb. 24-25. It includes a presentation on Thursday from Allen, showcasing her artwork.

The conference is free and open to the public, with registration available here. (SEE FULL SCHEDULE AT BOTTOM OF STORY)

MORE | Follow the BSA on Instragram at @spaldingbsa | Email blackstudentalliance@spalding.edu for info |  Register for virtual Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African American Studies

BSA meetings during the 2020-21 academic year have been limited, but post-pandemic, the organization expects to meet more regularly. During 2019-20, they met every week, and sessions included a check-in period in which members could share concerns and experiences that often then were shared with university leaders.

The BSA was founded in 2018 by then-Spalding student Jerre Crenshaw, a Liberal Studies major who was one of the first students to graduate with the university’s new minor in African American Studies. She developed the BSA as part of her praxis credit of the minor. Dr. Deonte Hollowell, an assistant professor of history and African American Studies who leads the AAS minor, is the BSA’s faculty advisor.

Spalding BSA President Savasia Thompson
Spalding BSA President Savasia Thompson

Thompson, a graduate of Manual High School, said she was eager to get involved in student organizations when she got to Spalding. She put her name on the ballot for a few BSA leadership positions, and ended up being elected president.

“I do find it to be a great honor to be president because I have a very good relationship with so many entities around Spalding,” she said. “I know a lot of people in financial aid, a lot of people in the Writing Center, where I also work, a lot of people in Human Resources. I’m very familiar with the campus, and I thought, ‘Well, if I want to make a difference, why not start at home (and get involved on campus)?'”

Thompson said the national attention that was cast on issues of race in 2020 was important because it showed the country “that there is a lot of work to be done” to achieve equity and justice in the United States.

Thompson said that her family has always provided an opportunity for her to share her feelings and emotions regarding racial issues and experiences, but that she knows not all of her peers have had that opportunity.

“So I hope that I’ve been able to support them,” said Thompson, who used to be a neighbor of David McAtee and who has friend who was a close friend of Breonna Taylor. “All these different issues have hit very close to home.”

2021 Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African American Studies

Presented by Spalding University, the Black Student Alliance and the West Louisville Women’s Collaborative

Day 1, Wednesday Feb. 24, 2021

12:30 p.m. – Introduction – Dr. Hollowell & BSA (Program Preview)

12:45 – Statements from the Writing Center and Spalding Equity Groups

1– 2:30 – HIST 383 Student Presentations – Works in Progress

4 – Performance by Alex Betts (Waterworks Dance Company)

4:30–5:30 – AAS 300 Student Presentations – Works in Progress

5:45 – 6:45 – Local Grassroots Organizer’s Forum

Day 2, Thursday Feb. 25

3:30-4 – BSA Day One Overview/Day Two Preview

4:15 – Student Presentations – Internships and Research Assistants

5:30–6 – WLWC Presents A Hip Hop Tribute to Elmer Lucille Allen

6– The Artistic Contributions of Elmer Lucille Allen

Closing Remarks from Spalding President Tori Murden McClure, Dr. Hollowell, Dean of Undergraduate Education Dr. Tomarra Adams, Dean of Students Janelle Rae