If not for the closure of campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Professional Nurses Alliance (BPNA) would have been holding its inaugural Juneteenth conference on Friday — capping off a meaningful first year for one of Spalding’s newest Recognized Student Organizations.
The conference, which likely would have included a panel discussion regarding the experiences of black healthcare workers and the health inequities facing black citizens, as well as free health screenings, had to be canceled, like all other on-campus events since March.
Nonetheless, BPNA has quickly and successfully established itself as an important organization to foster dialogue about the issues facing aspiring black nurses, and the conference it was set to hold on Juneteenth is likely to be rescheduled in a virtual setting or in person once the campus reopens next academic year.
BPNA focuses on building a safe space where African-American nursing students can speak openly on previous and current experiences as they relate to race. The goal of the organization is to create an atmosphere that will build solid relationships on and off campus that will further advance positive outcomes for African Americans during their campus experience at Spalding University.
School of Liberal Studies Administrative Assistant Tiffany Jacobs, who serves as BPNA’s staff counsel, said 2020 Master of Science in Nursing graduate Aiesha Cole played an integral role in starting the organization. Cole also served as the 2019-20 President of BPNA.
“Aiesha, along with other nursing students, felt a strong need to establish the BPNA to create a safe space for black students to connect, decompress and support one another as they work through the nursing program,” Jacobs said.
In its first year, BPNA’s membership grew to more than 20 undergraduate and graduate nursing students, who met every Wednesday. Jacobs said that despite the students’ busy schedules with class and clinicals, the weekly attendance at meetings was strong, evidence of how supportive the group was.
When it does take place, the BPNA plans to model its conference after the annual Elmer Lucille Allen Conference on African American Studies, which is co-sponsored by the Black Student Alliance (BSA) – a popular RSO that started in the 2018-19 academic year.
Multiple students are members of both BPNA and BSA. Jacobs said that several students from those organizations have been participating in the recent protests against racial injustice in response to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other black Americans.
New Spalding Dean of Students Janelle Rae praised both the BPNA and BSA along with the leaders who helped get the organizations started.
“Student success in college is strongly influenced by your support network,” Rae said. “Student organizations like BPNA and BSA are particularly important for black students at a predominantly white institution to support their positive identity development, share their unique experiences as marginalized and oppressed people in this world, and to have a place of refuge where they do not have to code switch. These are liberating spaces that are necessary for survival in a racist world.”
Students who are interested in joining BPNA should contact Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org and those interested in joining BSA may contact Faculty Advisor Dr. Deonte Hollowell at email@example.com.
For Juneteenth, Spalding’s Equity Collective – a group of faculty and staff leaders on campus focused on issues related to diversity, inclusion and equity – recommended the follow anti-racism resources to faculty and staff:
- Racial Equity Tools
- U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism
- RACE RELATIONS ON CAMPUS: LESSONS FROM MIZZOU
- CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion
- 75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice (Specifically for allies)
- I Can’t Breathe: A Roadmap for Responding to Racist State Violence
- Anti-racism Resources for White People (Specifically for allies)
- Do The Work: Rachel Cargle (Specifically for allies)
- For Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies (Specifically for allies)
- No White Saviors (Specifically for allies)
- 4 Steps that I and Other White People Can Take to Fight Racism (Specifically for allies)
- Internalized Racism
- Racism amid protests: Anti-racism books for adults, kids
- The 8 R’s of Talking About Race: How to Have Meaningful Conversations
- Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources
Tiffany Jacobs, BPNA Staff Counsel, also recommended the following links that can be used to become informed about issues and advocacy regarding black Americans: