De Anza’s Black Student Union finds new life


Kevin V Nguyen

A panel on racial justice consisting of members of De Anza’s BSU, Umoja counselor Maurice Canyon, counselor Glynn Wallis and local community activists.

After years of poor funding threatened to eliminate clubs and programs supporting Black students, De Anza College’s Black Student Union has revived this year, hoping to build a vibrant and sustainable student-led organization.

“Just being in a space where you don’t have to code-switch is really nice to have,” said Justice Merriman, 20, sociology major. “It makes a difference seeing other students of color successfully transfer to their dream school or land a job.”

Even though she has now transferred to UC Irvine, Merriman said that her brief time with the club in 2020 revealed the importance of its community.

Ami Henry, president of the BSU and 19-year-old psychology major, said a BSU was a no-brainer for her, since she was involved in her high school’s chapter. When the club wasn’t relaunched in time for her first quarter at De Anza, she said she struggled to cope.

“Here at BSU, you are not alone,” Henry said. “Whatever you’re going through, you’re always going to have people by your side who have your back.”

Members of De Anza and Foothill College BSUs celebrate Juneteenth via Zoom. Photo: Kevin V Nguyen

Beniam Gebrat, 24, an electrical engineering major and DASG senator, said that he wants to help pave the path for future Black students.

“Not every student is fortunate enough to have, say, Silicon Valley parents that can take care of every cost,” Gebrat said. “I’m going to continue to advocate for Black students so that they know that there are resources and scholarship opportunities.”

Gebrat added that he hopes that De Anza will start proactively offering help to students in need, instead of making them ask for it.

Merriman agreed.

“I hope that we create more spaces where students can express themselves and address the current environment,” Merriman said. “Mental health for all students, especially those of color, is such an important issue that being able to address that in one place would be huge.”

As the campus expands in-person learning, Henry said that the club will organize college and museum tours, participate in community service and host recruiting events for prospective college students.

She and the rest of the BSU leadership credit Umoja counselor Maurice Canyon and counselor Glynn Wallis as driving forces behind the renewal.

“Since BSU hadn’t been active at De Anza for a long time, it was going to need the help of the existing Umoja program,” said Abriana Holliday, 25, law enforcement and social and behavioral sciences major. “The idea was to really build a sense of community and provide a place of safety for Black students.”

Merriman was an Umoja peer advisor when membership opened for the new BSU. She agreed that Maurice and Glynn built momentum for the revived club.

“They are always at the meetings, even though it’s not always easy to make the time,” Merriman said. “They’re really putting the students first and staying involved in a way that is helpful for us to stay focused on our goals instead of trying to maneuver around them for their own agendas.”

The De Anza Black Student Union currently does not have any membership fees and does not require members to be full-time students. Their newest Instagram account can be found here.