BY KALISHA MENDONSA
A new student group has emerged at Burman University, with the intent of opening dialogue among citizens and celebrating black culture in Lacombe.
The Burman Black Student Association, or BBSA, was founded by Eulaine Ndhlovu as a way to celebrate cultural expression, learn from others and develop a resource where people can feel comfortable asking questions among each other.
The club is directed for students on campus, but Ndhlovu said eventually she hopes to see a greater cultural expression throughout the community.
“The BBSA is a way for people who specifically identify with black culture to express what they feel is important in different ways,” she said.
As examples, she said there have been a number of groups formed by BBSA members, including a STEP dance team, a drumline, a gospel choir and a sign-language group called Unspoken Testimony.
“There are a lot of people here who identify with our cultures, but we feel that our presence isn’t acknowledged as much as it could be. As well, there is a curiosity to understand from some people in our community. We want to be able to show people pieces of our culture, and invite them to celebrate with us,” Ndhlovu said.
One of the reasons she began the group was her feelings of being underwhelmed by the recognition of Black History Month.
Ndhlovu said she later found out it was typically students who organized celebrations for this occasion, rather than anyone on the administrative side.
She said there was no designated group, or even an organized group of students who were able to step up at that time and plan for cultural celebrations. This is one of the goals of the BBSA. In the future, the group will help to organize and celebrate events such as Black History Month or multicultural weekends.
As for the group’s potential, Ndhlovu is optimistic it will reach far beyond event planning.
“I hope that through BBSA, people see the excellence that is within them. I’ve met lots of people who aren’t relating to other people on campus or who feel there isn’t a space for them to explore their culture, so they tend to retreat into a corner and don’t speak out,” she explained.
“Once they feel like they are celebrated and have a place in our school community, they will celebrate more and speak out more and become innovators. From there, they will be better able to go out and inspire other people and share what they have learned. It will help them to make changes or come up with programs and initiatives to empower themselves and other people.”
She added she is hopeful that people will feel comfortable to come to the group, take part in the alliance and explore a culture they may not understand. She said the group will help to serve as a platform to share cultures across the community.
Last week, the group organized an event titled ‘You Can(‘t) Touch My Hair’, a human exhibit. This exhibit had volunteers with various hairstyles hold up signs either saying people could or couldn’t touch their hair. Visitors would move through the line up, and develop kind introductions before facilitating a respectful conversation about different hairstyles.
Ndhlovu said it was a great way to open up a dialogue of cultural expression in a way not many people have had the chance to do before.
“That exhibit was an open-forum platform for people to come ask questions about our hair and beauty. At the same time, it offered a place for others to figure out what goes into maintaining our hair, or how long it can take to style. It was a safe space to open up a dialogue, and that is what I want to come from this group.”
She said she is excited for members to share their own cultural expressions, from African music to Caribbean food, along with fashion, history and more. She added she is eager to see those variations in culture embraced and explored.
“I hope the platform extends beyond the campus, eventually. I want people to join our conversation, ask us questions and maybe eventually feel comfortable to come onto the campus and engage with us more here. We have Indian Clubs, and Philippine Clubs, and with the formation of BBSA, those clubs are getting the motivation to be revived as well. I want to see us embracing all different kinds</spa