UC Santa Barbara’s Black Student Union celebrated Black faculty and staff during an appreciation ceremony on Feb. 10 at Corwin Pavilion, honoring community members for their work and commitment to students on campus.
The event, which was sponsored by on-campus groups including the Office of Black Student Development (OBSD) and the Black Women’s Health Collaborative, was the first of its kind. The Black Student Union (BSU) hopes to make the ceremony annual going forward, according to BSU Interim Development Coordinator Kylah Jordan, who spearheaded the event.
“I had created the idea that we should pretty much appreciate Black staff and faculty for all they have done for Black students,” Jordan said in an interview with the Nexus. “We are a bit of a small population, and they’re a small population themselves.”
The following faculty and staff were nominated for the ceremony: Counseling & Psychological Services Psychologist Dominique Broussard, Black Studies professor Terrance Wooten, Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Academic Achievement Counselor and African diasporic Cultural Resource Center Coordinator Tara Jones, OBSD Director Elroy Pinks and EOP Counselor Stephen Jones.
The event was introduced by BSU President and fourth-year chemistry major Ethan George, who discussed the impact of having representation of Black educators early on for Black students.
“In all my years of elementary school, middle school and high school, I only had one Black [teacher], and I can’t even speak to the importance that he had in my life,” George said.
He addressed the faculty and staff present at the ceremony and thanked them for their presence and visibility for Black students at UCSB.
“Your attendance, your presence, the things you say, your visibility to Black students anywhere … all of that is so, so worth it,” George said.
Jordan celebrated Assistant Vice Chancellor, Dean of Student Life and BSU Advisor Katya Armistead and Mental Health Initiatives and Inclusion Assistant Director Meridith Merchant in her speech, speaking to her personal experiences with Armistead.
“As a second year, I wasn’t really in tune with the Black community, but [Armistead] motivated me to get involved,” Jordan said.
BSU then presented a video, showcasing interviews with various Black students on campus who expressed appreciation for Black faculty and staff at the university. Many spoke to the importance of having Black representation in their faculty and staff members.
The ceremony closed with the welcoming of OBSD staff and interns to the stage, celebrating Pinks, Assistant Director Kareen Louis, Advocacy Counselor Mekhi Mitchell, Business Officer & Business Operations Analyst Angela Cantu, Assistant Director Marcus Mathis and Academic Achievement Counselor Ashlee Priestley.
Jordan said that the small population of the Black faculty and staff leads to difficulties in retention due to a lot of their work going unnoticed.
“There’s not many of them represented here, so it’s really hard for them to have retention,” she said in an interview with the Nexus. “We want to pretty much show them that [their work] is not unnoticed. We see what you’re doing and we see the hard work that you put in for Black students … and that’s something that we want to be able [to do], to honor the Black staff and faculty for having our backs.”
George echoed Jordan’s sentiment.
“Black faculty and staff are really important to the climate of Black students and our experience here at UCSB, and I really feel like they don’t really get the acknowledgement and appreciation that they deserve,” he said in an interview with the Nexus. “We wanted to do that within the realm of what we can offer and just show them our appreciation and how much we need them and see them here.”
George also spoke about how the appreciation ceremony furthers the mission of BSU to uplift the life of UCSB’s Black students, faculty and staff.
“Our role here as BSU [executive] board is to find different ways to provide resources and uplift the quality of life of Black students,” he said. “We have to work together in order to accomplish the things on our Black agenda, and that’s in terms of providing those resources and making students feel comfortable reaching out to different faculty and staff members.”
He said that events like this ultimately come down to fostering a sense of community for UCSB members beyond just students.
“I feel like it’s important for us to acknowledge and show love to each other, especially in a climate that’s not always very nice,” George said. “We have to play our part to show them that love and that they can stay … so we can actually build a stronger Black community here that’s more sustainable for the future.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Feb. 16, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.