40 Years of Black United Students

Regina Garcia Cano

Organization recognizes its strength, service

During the last four decades, several people have come and left Kent State. Many organizations have been founded and later disintegrated.

Black United Students, however, has stood strong.

“We are commemorating 40 years worth of organizational strength and service to our community,” BUS President Ashley Tolliver said. “Black United Students is the first organization of its kind in the country.”

Since it was founded in 1968, Tolliver said, BUS has been the voice for black students on this campus.

“BUS is the liaison between minority students and the administration at Kent State University,” Tolliver said. “The administration is not going to try to come to our communities and see what it is exactly that we need. However, when BUS demands to address those issues, then they are addressed.”

Timothy Moore, president of BUS in 1971 and current associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he sees Black United Students as a group of people willing to fight the good fight.

For Tolliver, the biggest conquest in this fight has been Oscar Ritchie Hall.

“Nothing at this campus was given to us; everything was taken by our students,” Tolliver said. “We had a goal, we met a goal and we continue to set goals and meet them.”

Before Oscar Ritchie Hall was designated as the Center of Pan-African Culture and the department of Pan-African studies in 1977, the Kuumba House was the home away from home for black students.

“It was a house that we had for our use, to play our own music, to cook our food, to chill in a predominantly white campus,” Moore said. “The university worked with the students to give them this environment so that they would feel more welcome and they could began to learn more about themselves and our history.”

Tolliver said a characteristic that separates Black United Students from the rest of the organizations is its leadership.

“Some people may not agree with our agendas, but they really agree that this is an organized student group, and it is a student group of power,” she said.

But for Moore, more black males should step up in the organization’s leadership positions.

“From my time as president of to the present, black females have always been more consistently dedicated to doing the work that the organization requires,” Moore said.

BUS Historian Dylan Sellers said the organization is the umbrella for all other black student groups on campus.

Sellers said the impact of BUS is not limited to the Kent State community. For several years, the organization has collaborated with the Skeels-Mathews and King-Kennedy community centers.

Traci Williams, instructor of Pan-African studies, was president of BUS in 1998.

For her, the organization was more than an extra-curricular activity.

“It taught me how to work with many different types of people, from administration, to students, to international students,” Williams said. “It really taught me how to be a good leader and how to adapt and how to compromise.

“I really feel that if it wasn’t for Black United Students and the department of Pan-African studies, I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today.”

Analyzing what the organization has accomplished and its to-do list, Sellers said the organization needs to work with the university to heighten the retention rate of young black males and females.

Also, Sellers said, BUS needs to build conversations with students across campus to try to dispel stereotypes on the organization.

“I really would like to build conversation to effect change on this campus as far as race concerns because these are obstacles that we need to get over as a society not only as Kent State,” Sellers said.

Contact minority affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].