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Organize… Educate… Serve…

February 21, 2012

Before Makuu, before UMOJA, and before the United Minorities Council (UMC), there was the Black Student League, which acted as both the political and social voice for minority students on campus. During the tension of the Civil Rights, Black Power, Black Consciousness, and Black Arts movements, Black students at Penn encouraged in-group solidarity, autonomy, and pride in Black culture. Because the students supported a strong racial-consciousness, many Black Students were members of the Society of African and Afro-American Students (SAAS).  SAAS was an organization that promoted racial exclusivity, fought for the formation of an African American Studies Program, and a dormitory for Black students. In 1971, SAAS changed its name to the Black Student League.

The Black Student League supported Latino and Asian communities as well. During the sit-in of 1978, the Black Student League occupied the Franklin building. Though white students originally led the sit-in, the members of the BSL found this an opportune time to forward their own agenda demands for implementation of the Report on the Task Force of Black Presence. Furthermore, BSL took the lead to establish the UMC as an umbrella group for racial minority organizations in March 1978.

BSL, Current Executive Board

Although the mission of the BSL has slighted shifted from heavily political and active to social, the BSL remains a strong cultural group on campus. Today, the BSL strives to unite students and student groups of the African Diaspora through facilitating social interaction and collective community engagement. BSL’s mission is carried out through general body meetings, discussion forums, and cross-cultural events, in order to establish a familial environment most conducive to the success and personal and academic growth of our community.

George Hardy, CAS ’12

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