Freshmen flocked to the Hawkins-Carlson Room last Sunday night for Blackout, an annual event hosted by the Black Students’ Union (BSU) to showcase clubs and organizations for minority students on campus.
Over 20 organizations attended, including seven multicultural fraternities and sororities in addition to leadership organizations and dance groups.
Blackout was first hosted by a collaboration between BSU and the Minority Student Advisory Board in 1999. The event is now planned and carried out solely by BSU, senior and the group’s vice president Susan Ojukwu said.
“It is a chance to welcome minority freshmen and introduce them to organizations that are run by people who look like them,” she said. “All of these organizations have missions that involve engaging with and uplifting communities of color.”
Junior and BSU president Caryl English welcomed freshmen to the event, noting that it is the first formal opportunity for freshmen to get acquainted with multicultural groups on campus.
English invited the executive boards of various clubs to the stage, where they introduced themselves and their groups’ activities. The organizations ranged from Circle K International, a community service group founded in 1936, to No Disclaimers, a spoken-word poetry club founded in 2014 by UR alumna SeQuoia Kemp.
Numerous dance groups also came to the stage, including Axum, a mixed African dance group; Salseros, a salsa and bachata performance group under the umbrella of the Spanish and Latino Students’ Association (SALSA); Xclusive, the University of Rochester’s step team; and M’Frisah, a co-ed dance group founded in 2011.
Following this series of presentations, former BSU president Shelly Clements ’88 delivered the keynote address to the audience.
Clements, a labor relations specialist for the New York State Union of Teachers, charged students to make change in society, but also gave tips on how to be successful academically.
“The strong ask for help, and they go to office hours,” she said.
Clements was chosen to speak “so that freshmen students can see that they can make it through this university and become people of status,” Ojukwu explained. “She also serves to mobilize us as current students to do more in our community, to work together, and achieve more.”
Past Blackout keynote speakers have included University Dean Paul Burgett, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick, and Wade Norwood, Chief Strategy Officer for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency.
To conclude the event, freshmen took part in a candlelight ceremony on the front steps of Rush Rhees Library, during which the students introduced themselves, to resounding cheers and applause from the audience.
The crowd included students from around the U.S. as well as a number of international students.
Freshman Ruba West, from Nigeria, applied to UR because he wanted to attend a small college in the United States. West intends to major in chemistry. Freshman Estephanie Cintron, who is from Puerto Rico, is a pre-med student and said that she is considering joining the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT).
Overall, the event appeared to be a great success, with students eager to get involved at UR.
Freshman Michaela Pratt, from Washington, D.C., said she plans to audition for Indulgence dance crew.
“Everyone seemed like they genuinely care about each other and want to help each other,” Pratt said approvingly of Blackout.
Freshman Miles Perry, who is from Rochester, worked at UR’s Hajim School of Engineering in high school. He is eager to join BSU and Douglass Leadership House, having already met several students from those organizations in previous years. He also plans to attend meetings for the Pan-African Students’ Association and Xclusive Step Team, as well as join the Students’ Association Government.
“I want to do a lot,” Perry said.