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Story by Awa Badiane ’21
Sarah E. Navy ’22, president of Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU), has been on a mission during Spring Term to keep members of the student organization connected.
It’s the continuation of efforts that were in play on campus before the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home.
Those efforts have included keeping alive an important tradition in bidding farewell to senior members of the BSU, the Kente Cloth Ceremony. Navy has been working to overcome the roadblocks, mapping out a Zoom alternative to the group’s beloved senior celebration.
While still on campus, Navy, a music performance (voice) major from Houston, and the BSU board had made major strides as an organization in building stronger connections as a community.
“We have hosted a game night, we have gone roller skating; that was super fun,” Navy said. “We have had various community events. During one meeting, we had the Title IX coordinator come and speak with us. One of the big things I wanted to do was to redefine what community meant to us as a community on campus.”
With everyone separated this term, hosting events has been difficult, but not impossible. Navy has worked to keep lines of communication open between herself and BSU members.
“I send out a lot of emails to our organization as a whole,” Navy said. “I feel like with us being so far away, the least I can do is to continue to send out those messages for our community to know there is still some sort of lifeline to connect with.”
Navy and the BSU board have also been active on the organization’s social media accounts.
“The DIC (Diversity and Intercultural Center) just had their virtual party, so spreading that around for everybody to see,” Navy said. “Just keeping everyone as engaged as possible.”
An important tradition
The annual Kente Cloth Ceremony is among the group’s most cherished traditions. During this celebration, the BSU community comes together to say goodbye to BSU seniors and celebrate their accomplishments. Seniors are presented with a kente print stole that is worn at graduation. Though unable to come together and celebrate in person, Navy still believed it was important for this year’s seniors to have a ceremony and to receive a cloth.
“When I found out we were getting quarantined, I was like, OK, we have to figure out how to get the seniors their kente cloths,” Navy said. “And I remember being in Sankofa and talking to a senior, Jacelynn Allen, and she was so upset about it all, and I was like, ‘You know we’re going to figure out a way to give you guys your kente cloths.’
“And she was like, ‘You’re going to try and get us our kente cloths? I didn’t think that was possible. When we were told to go home, I thought that was done.’ To be able to provide that for someone, and not for personal gain but just so they know they are accounted for, that matters.”
BSU will be hosting the Kente Cloth Ceremony through Zoom later this term. They will produce a video of people chosen by the seniors to speak on their behalf. The video will be shown during the Zoom ceremony, and then others in attendance will have a chance to congratulate the seniors and bid them farewell.
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.