Recently, African American Affairs at Minnesota State University, Mankato kicked off a series of events: On&Poppin’. Balencia Crosby, the Interim Director of the group, explained the hopes of the series.
“It’s an opportunity for the black collective to come together, to celebrate one another, to spend time with one another and really start to knit and strengthen the community that is within us here at Mankato,” said Crosby. “It’s really just a way for us to get out of our heads and get out of our own ways and stop thinking like, ‘what are they thinking about me?’”
In order to get students connecting with each other, at the first event students had to construct towers in teams using pasta and marshmallows.
“It was silly and funny, but competitive at the same time,” said Crosby. “We’re gonna roll one out again in October and November, and then we’ll do two in the spring. This next one is going to be a big game day.”
She’s hoping it can further develop the bond of the students from the first group, and create new bonds with all who join. “COVID happened and it is still a lingering concern for a number of people. We have a large population of students who are sophomores and juniors who missed a lot of that connectivity. I think for those students to come together and share space and rub elbows with one another – that’s where they see one another; they see a larger part of the community.”
Seeing a larger community is crucial for all students, but especially students in minority groups. “I’ve had a number of students this week and weeks prior to come in and say, ‘I’m the only person in this class and it feels like this. I’m the only person in my program and it feels like this,’” said Crosby. “Yes, sometimes we are a single individual in the room – the single black individual in the room, the single woman in the room, so on and so forth. But there are so many other bodies that look and feel and experience a number of experiences just like you and can support in that way.”
Of course, though, students can visit the African American Affairs office anytime for support – and not just if they are African America.
“Anyone can come into this office and feel supported. When you come in here, I want that person to feel like they are the most important person in the room,” said Crosby. “This is the place for support and it’s a place for connectivity at large. I think that’s really what this center is.”
Header Photo: African American Affairs focuses on the connection of students on campus to combat the walls built by the pandemic. Future On&Poppin’ events include a game night and a banquet. After all, sometimes the best conversations happen over food. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Lilly Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org