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This spring, Olivet College’s Black Student Union (BSU) enjoyed a special trip to Washington, D.C., focused on exploring African American history and culture. The trip empowered students to celebrate People of Color and their contributions to our nation, address the inequalities ever-present in our society and promote a culture of understanding and inclusion. This mission will energize students as they return to campus this fall.

“BSU is extremely important because it helps many students feel comfortable on campus,” said rising senior Sidney McIntosh, president of BSU. “We educate, learn and help spread knowledge around campus which helps keep Olivet diverse and accepting of all ethnicities. It also shows students that there is a way to get involved and have a spot on campus that someone can go to if they need support. I joined BSU because I wanted to get involved and continue to learn and educate myself and the campus.”

Brittany McDuffie ’20 recently completed her undergraduate studies at Olivet College and is now pursuing further education to enter the medical field. For her, BSU helped create a home away from home at OC.

“BSU is important because it’s a place where students, mostly minorities of all different backgrounds, can come together and be ourselves and identify ways to impact change,” Brittany said. “I believe, outside of Greek life, BSU provides a home away from home. You recognize you have more in common with the person next to you than you thought. You grow with the people around you whether it be through trips, fundraising or events. Being surrounded by people who look like you and value diversity is key to survival for People of Color in any environment. I joined BSU because I thought it was a great organization full of diversity, and it provided ways of connecting to campus.”

During the trip to Washington, D.C., students visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in addition to many national monuments. These experiences provided unmatched educational and social lessons, paired with strong relationship building.

“It really was good to bond with other BSU members while learning and educating ourselves on the history of the culture,” Sidney said. “We saw a lot of things and learned a lot on this trip that we are excited to bring back to educate other members who didn’t attend. It was a lot of fun and something I want to make sure to continue to do as BSU president.”

Rising senior Cassidy Hath echoed Sidney’s sentiment. “It meant a lot to me that I was able to travel with BSU. In high school, we weren’t taught a ton about the history of black people as in-depth as I learned while at the museums. Knowing I was going on a trip where I was going to learn so much new information and get new perspectives that I did not get in high school was so important to me.”

For many students, the experience at the National Museum of African American History and Culture stands out as the most impactful experience on the trip.

“My favorite part of the trip was the African American museum,” Brittany said. “It was so touching to see the history behind African Americans. It’s one thing to read and hear, but truly seeing it in 3D was moving. We are so blessed to live the lives we do, but there’s still so much to be done. Our ancestors have paved the way to where we are now, and that’s all the more reason to continue to carry on some of the reasons they fought and died for, such as voting and advocacy.”

“I really found the African American museum the most interesting because it was so in-depth and took you from the very beginning of African American culture to current times,” Sidney agreed. “It showed us the story that African Americans had to go through, as well as the culture of African Americans from the music, clothing, cars and hairstyles represented. It also showed us all the pain and slavery that happened. It showed us that yes, we have come a long way since then, but we still have so much more to do for the African American culture. It reminded us that we need to keep learning and educating to make sure we don’t go backward and only forward.

The Emmett Till part of the museum was especially huge for us. Seeing his casket and the cotton gin almost froze us all. It was heartbreaking, but it also inspired us to create change. The most meaningful takeaway from this trip overall was knowing that the world really has come so far and we were able to educate ourselves on that, but we all know that we are in a position to continue to change the world and make our ancestors proud by continuing that change and education of the world.”

BSU members agree on one more important point — they encourage all other students to take advantage of opportunities to travel, explore cultural history and expand their view on global diversity.

“I would encourage others to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities because it opens your eyes,” Cassidy said. “I thought I knew a decent amount of black history and truly thought I was pretty educated on the topic; however, going to the history museum showed me how much I did not know and how many things were never even taught to us in school. It opened my eyes and showed me that there is always more to learn.”

“I would definitely encourage students to join organizations on campus, especially BSU,” Brittany said. “It’s a place you grow and thrive. You cannot simply grow staying in the same space and environment. Growth comes from finding comfort in the uncomfortable. You simply realize although the person next to me may not believe in what I believe in, or think how I think, or look like me, but there’s something we have in common somewhere if we keep an open mind. Traveling puts the icing on the cake; experiencing more of the world is an amazing opportunity — don’t pass it up!”

Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@olivetcollege.edu.

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