Before coming to UBC, constantly being surrounded by a group of people who looked like me was pure imagination. Yes, I would get a taste for a couple of months when I went to the Ivory Coast for the summer, but in my daily life, it was far from reality.
As a matter of fact, creating that community wasn’t even an option. There were not enough Black students at any school I ever attended in Canada or in Europe to form a Black Student Union, and to be honest, it didn’t even cross my mind because it was such a far-fetched idea. I would watch videos of Black friend groups who went to historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs) and just assumed I would never experience that kind of joy.
Subconsciously, I just accepted that fate. Then came 2020… and it hit. It hit that no one in my circle could truly understand what it was like. It hit when I felt like maybe a grand total of 11 people in my entire school would know that these tragedies regularly occur. And it really hit when I started thinking about everything else that 99.99 per cent of people around me didn’t feel, understand or live.
And then came my first year after what was a rather traumatic summer. In the midst of the pandemic and seeing videos of someone’s Black brother and father being murdered I just thought well… here we go again. I re-downloaded Instagram and saw that a page named @ubcbsu (the UBC Black Student Union’s (BSU) Instagram account) had followed me. I clicked and immediately started STALKING it — I felt happiness radiating through my screen and absolutely refused to let my university experience go by without being a part of this community.
From going to every Zoom event to becoming a part of the executive team, my experience at UBC would be so different (and tasteless) without being a part of the BSU. The BSU has given me, like many others, the opportunity to make some of my closest friends, fondest memories and, most importantly, to feel understood.
It’s not just a club — it’s a little family. We may only be one per cent of the student population at UBC, but that small number makes me grateful for each Black person that I encounter and creates an instant connection that is irreplaceable and has gotten me through university.
To me, the BSU has given me a fresh start, endless joy and a home away from home that I will cherish forever.
This piece is part of The Ubyssey and UBC Black Student Union's 2023 Black History Month supplement, titled B1%CK. Read the full supplement here, or pick up a print paper on UBC's Vancouver campus.