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The Black Bruin Experience: Resources for Black Bruins should be improved in post-pandemic transitory period

By Andrea Robinson

May 21, 2023 9:13 p.m.

The vast majority of my time at UCLA has been spent adjacent to or directly involved within the Black Bruin community here on campus.

I was first introduced to the community by my sister, Julia Robinson, during my senior year of high school. She took me to an Afrikan Student Union meeting while volunteering on staff, where they were debating the reclassification of the Afrikan Student Union to the Black Student Union amid organizing for the creation of Black Bruin Resource Center.

Many Black Bruins take on similar roles within their community, putting on numerous events that facilitate the retention, service of and outreach to Black students within the UCLA community and broader Los Angeles area. As students attending a predominantly white and Asian institution, this doesn’t come without struggle and encompasses a multifaceted experience.

On top of the many stressors that arise as emerging adults in college, many of us struggle with adjusting to an institution that lacks proactivity in equipping Black students with the tools to address gaps in resources and education. As students, we facilitate the continuation of necessary programming to create a welcoming space for incoming Black students and support their well-being at UCLA.

From managing extracurricular activities and jobs, many of us would not and could not sacrifice any aspect of what we serve in. Programming and resources for students are best led by students. However, the period of emerging adulthood can make leadership and organizing challenging, especially during an ongoing pandemic. With these compounding realities, Black students deserve faculty and administrative support in ensuring the resources we provide are maintained.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges we face as Black students on campus. With the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as local and state violence, the mental health of Black students, families and the entire community were disproportionately impacted and not adequately addressed. These unaddressed traumas, which I can only relate to Claudia Rankine’s declaration, “The condition of Black life is one of mourning,” affect Black students’ capacity and ability to organize for our communities.

We continue to face a transitory period in adjusting back to in-person and hybrid programming, and there is an opportunity for the Black community to be supported in producing quality programming that reflects our current needs and values.

The BBRC was originally intended to bridge the gap between faculty and students to better facilitate programming and provide resources for students. At its inception, students rallied for the center to provide scholarships, on-campus jobs, basic needs and programming funding, as well as career, financial and academic counseling, along with the in-house facilitation of Black outreach, service and retention programs.

The services we received initially did great work to set the tone for the resources we could have in a space designed for Black students, but I urge us as a community to expect and demand more.

I had hoped that the interim director might facilitate forums, conversations or panels to address the intercommunity issues brought to light in the summer of 2020 to address the difficult realities of a society that structures itself around heteronormativity, misogyny and the perpetuation of the gender binary. I would love to see scholarships for programs such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest or housing subsidies for students facing housing insecurities.

As we deal with issues of leadership within ASU, which was established in 1966, I hoped to see workshops facilitated to provide direction and guidance to student leaders as they navigate the challenges of leadership and the responsibilities it entails.

Most critically, I want a promise on behalf of UCLA administrators and faculty that the resources given to us at the BBRC continue to develop and expand, reflective of the needs of the Black student body, regardless of staffing and leadership.

The well-being of our community is entirely dependent upon the leadership and maintenance of the organizations that represent the interests and needs of Black students. We have the passion, knowledge and skills within our community to demand the resources we deserve, and there are ways in which we can be uplifted and supported by faculty and administration to do so.

I hope to see Black students of all backgrounds champion open communication, trust, transparency and accountability within our spaces so that we can focus on what matters most: giving ourselves and others the resources to grow, serve, learn, improve and succeed.

Andrea Robinson is a fourth-year African American studies student.

(Katelyn Dang/Daily Bruin staff)
(Katelyn Dang/Daily Bruin staff)

“The Black Bruin Experience” is a series by assistant Opinion editor Laila Wheeler, a second-year public affairs, sociology and education student. As a Black student at UCLA, she will be exploring a variety of Black issues, from institutional racism to anti-Blackness to the everyday experiences of being Black in the higher education system. These columns will not only focus on Black trauma, but they will also highlight the multidimensionality of Blackness, including Black creativity, success, leadership and excellence. The Black community at UCLA has been tirelessly advocating for its demands to be heard, and these columns aim to amplify Black voices and call on UCLA administrators to actively work toward creating an anti-racist institution. Black Bruins are welcome to submit op-eds or letters to the editor to be published as part of this series to fully represent the diverse experiences and viewpoints of the Black community.

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