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Black Student Union makes UTEP feel like home

Joel Molina
UTEP’s Black Student Union, goal is to educate and celebrate African American culture.

Moving to El Paso to attend UTEP can be a culture shock to many students. With a majority Hispanic population, some students of different ethnicities can have trouble settling in. However, there are many organizations that can help them feel at home, like UTEP’S Black Student Union (BSU). Through educating and celebrating African American culture, BSU is led by students to help build a black community on campus.  

Current vice-president for BSU, Keith White was a student who felt a culture shock when moving to El Paso. Coming from Dallas his mom encouraged him to find a Black community at UTEP. White says that going to the first BSU meeting exceeded his expectations. 

“When I found (BSU) I was like ‘Oh, they’re actually here,’” White said. “Going to the meetings, at first, I thought I was going to go in, and honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, I thought it was going to be something boring, or everyone was going to be uptight. But when I walked in, and I went to one of the meetings, and events, I learned it was quite the opposite.” 

Feeling welcome on campus by BSU inspired White to move up in position to further spread the message the organization emphasizes. 

“We aim to create a safe place for black and indigenous people on campus through things like advocacy and events,” White said. “With BSU, what sets us different, is our community. We aim to create something that’s not an organization where you (just) come in, we want you to feel welcome.” 

Member of BSU, Marrik Suttoa was drawn to the mission of the organization prompting him to join. 

“I could see it’s an organization about people that look like me, or talk about struggles, and things that are part of black culture, like the art, music and overall struggles,” Suttoa said. “Again, it’s not just about being black, they are people that are not black that are also a part of the organization, it’s about basically just coming together to learn about black history.” 

BSU holds many events throughout the semester to spread awareness about black history.  They often hold panels discussing topics about black history. Their most recent panel was a lecture series of African American studies with UTEP’s professor of history, Michael Vinson William, Ph.D. Through events that BSU holds, it can shine light on the history of what Suttoa calls the ‘minority of the minorities’ in El Paso.  

“I didn’t know we existed that much here, and it’s nice to bring awareness because people are like, ‘Oh, people that are black live here?’,” Suttoa said. “We make up the minority of the minorities here in El Paso. I think it’s important that people know we exist here, and people get to understand our culture and the things that we do, the things that we make, and the things that we love to participate in.”  

During Black History Month, an exhibition with the theme ‘Resistance through Black Joy’ opened in the Union East Gallery. UTEP students can visit this gallery until Feb. 24. Organizations like BSU open the doors to acceptance of other cultures. Knowing about other cultures can help residents be more aware of others present in El Paso. Although El Paso is known to be a border city, it’s important not to diminish other ethnicities.  

Sofia Sierra is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected] 

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About the Contributors
Sofia Sierra
Sofia Sierra, Web/Copy Editor
Sofia is a junior studying multimedia journalism with a minor in creative writing. She is the web and copy editor at The Prospector. After graduation, she hopes to work outside of El Paso to continue to grow as a writer.
Joel Molina
Joel Molina, Photo Editor
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the photo editor who began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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