The Black Experience at Kent State

Cassaundra Bronson

Felicia Guadagni

African-American students explain their experiences in a predominantly white campus setting.

Matthew Thompson

Black United Students (BUS) is an on-campus organization that works to educate the university about issues relevant to black people nationwide. Its current president, Matthew Thompson, a senior sports administration major, acknowledges the responsibility he feels with his position as president.

“To be a black student at Kent State means to be revolutionary everyday in the work I do at Black United Students,” Thompson said. “There is a great history of activism and progress as far as racial issues at KSU. I want to continue that legacy as president and create new stages for conversation for radical improvement.”

While Thompson exudes pride in being a black student at Kent State, his experience on campus hasn’t been exclusively positive. After taking part in the on-campus march following the Ferguson decision, Thompson said he was faced with a harsh reality.

A rock painted black by the protestors, including Thompson, was covered in a painting of a swastika. Thompson said it felt like a slap in the face to the work that was trying to do when he first saw the swastika.

“We were trying to mourn with the community peacefully and come together as a university, not just as a black community, so that was hard,” Thompson said.

While Thompson describes the situation as harsh, he said he recognized the opportunity presented by the event to reevaluate the progress being made at Kent State and nationwide. 

“Black life in America does matter; these issues do matter,” Thompson said. “And they should be talked about in an ongoing conversation— not just when they are national news.”

Cassaundra Bronson

Cleveland native Cassaundra Bronson tackles adversity head-on everyday. As a black woman in the field of biology, Bronson’s reality is one she knows she can handle.

“There are different bias and stereotypes I fight everyday, but it’s the norm,” Bronson said. “I know I have to work harder to get through, but it’s what I do.”

Bronson has established an impressive resume of involvement on campus. The senior biology major is a member of Phi Delta Epsilon, the Ronald E. McNair Scholars research program and the Oscar Ritchie Scholars Guild.

Bronson said she feels that the student programs at Kent State have extremely affected her experience on campus and provided a platform for her to form relationships with peers and administrators at the university.

“The support of programs run through the Student Multicultural Center, the support of the Division of Equity Inclusion is really important for black students,” Bronson said.

And as a black student at Kent State, Bronson said she feels Black History Month is a time to reflect and evaluate areas that need improvement in the education of black history. Bronson said it is also a time of fun events—especially in the arts— at Kent State. 

“It is almost a month of catch-up on everything that is of African decent —advancements, patents, anything that has brought us to this point — not just as African-Americans, but everyone,” Bronson said. “It is a time for recognition, even though there should be recognition all the time.”

Contact Felicia Guadagni at [email protected].