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Black Student Coalition Grows - A Lot

February 28, 2024
Members of UC Merced's Black Student Coalition are shown.
Members of the Black Student Coalition

Editor's note: In honor of Black History Month, the UC Merced newsroom is highlighting some of the organizations, services and people who serve or represent the Black community on campus.

UC Merced's Black Student Coalition has tripled in size in just the past year.

Stephen Smith and De'Zhane Brown Churchill founded the Black Student Coalition in 2022 to create a safe space for UC Merced students of the Black diaspora. After a slow start, the coalition had grown to have 122 members by last February .

It's now up to 464.

Though there are other Black-centered organizations at the university - and the coalition collaborates with many of them - the BSC is unique in that it focuses on members' mental health. Some of the most popular activities the coalition has sponsored include artistic endeavors such as painting and ceramics nights.

'We've found when people really focus on creativity it's good for their mental health," Smith said. "We wanted to lean into Black joy and excitement away from the classroom."

Though the coalition is focused on the Black diaspora, it's open to anyone. Members emphasize that a lot of their events and activities transcend race.

Smith, who grew up in Los Angeles and plans to attend school in Paris after graduating from UC Merced this spring, said he enjoyed the chance to create an organization that will thrive after he has left campus. One of the best aspects about attending a newer university is the opportunity to carve out new experiences.

"If there's something that isn't working for you, go make it," Smith said. "That's a great thing about UC Merced being so young."

Members are planning for further collaboration across campus. They will be led by Letha Jarman, the organization's current president.

"We are working with UC Merced Dining on dinner/calendar plans for Black History Month and Women's History Month," Smith said. For Feb. 28, they worked together to create the menu options for the day at the Yablokoff-Wallace Dining Center: breakfast for dinner (eggs, French toast, hash browns, waffles, sausage and grits); gumbo and jollof rice; fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread; and beignets and peach cobbler.

The group also has been reaching outside of the university for partnerships.

"We are collaborating with Merced College and the Merced NAACP," Smith said. "We want to work with students outside of the UC."

For more information, follow the Black Student Coalition's Instagram page .

Patty Guerra

Public Information Officer

Office: (209) 769-0948