Minority students came together on the steps of Wilson Commons Sunday night to welcome freshmen to campus and give minorities a better sense of belonging in the UR community in an event named “Blackout.”

“Blackout,” organized by the Black Students Union, is a “rite of passage” meant to “ease the transition from [being] seniors in high school to freshmen in college,” junior and BSU Co-President Stephanie Fitzpatrick said. Although the event was planned to take place on the steps of Rush Rhees Library, the rain necessitated it be moved to the main entrance of Wilson Commons. Approximately 60 upperclassmen came out, mostly dressed in black, to meet other minority students ? especially incoming freshmen.

Representatives from a variety of student organizations including the Spanish and Latino Students Association, Men Against Sexual Assault and the UR Christian Fellowship introduced their group and mission.

Following this, upperclassmen formed two lines, creating a corridor. Freshmen introduced themselves, stating their name, hometown, intended major and how they plan to impact the community. Familiar hometowns and outstanding goals provoked enthusiastic applause and cheers. Each freshman held a candle as they proceeded down the corridor of people.

After each freshman was introduced, everyone sang together “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Some upperclassmen offered advice to freshmen, urging them to keep open minds and follow their hearts if they find something they love.

Sophomore Jmir Cousar said that the event is “really positive” and provides “a good support network” for not only incoming freshmen but also any minority student.

Many might think of minorities in terms of ethnicity or race, but the Pride Network, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and their allies, were also represented at “Blackout.” According to junior Sharifa Stewart, who is the educational and political chair of the BSU, “black students often experience the same prejudices as the Pride Network” so they are welcomed to the event.

While some groups may focus on representing specific minority groups, everyone, regardless of ethnicity or sexual preference, is welcome to join.

Freshman Laura Porterfield, an English and French major from El Paso, TX who attended the event, believes that “most freshmen are apprehensive” and that Blackout “helped [her] meet lots of people.” Porterfield also feels that this event “promotes diversity and helps the understanding of different cultures and where they come from.”

St. Louis native and freshman Iman Criner stated that, “coming from a mostly white community, this event was a good beginning to [working] toward my goal here at UR, which includes involvement, curiosity and inclusion of all different types of people.”

“Blackout” was just the beginning of several multicultural and minority events on campus. The BSU’s next major event, Kwanzaa, takes place Dec. 6 and includes food, music, speakers and an explanation of the tradition of the BSU and of Kwanzaa. BSU invites everyone to its first meeting of the year this Sunday, Sept. 22, in Havens Lounge on the third floor of Wilson Commons.

Yunis can be reached at tyunis@campustimes.org.

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