Organizations Come Together to Host Black-to-School Cookout

Arden West, Staff Writer

Late Saturday afternoon, a collective of Black student organizations, including the Black Student Union (BSU), hosted its Black-to-School Cookout to kick off the new year and celebrate the Black community at the University. Hundreds of students danced, ate and reconnected under the sunset’s pink skies that lit up West Campus. In classic Villanovan fashion, the event was centered around a basketball tournament, which showcased 3v3 games that teams arranged and entered. 


BSU’s President, Jordin Lamothe, and the executive board began organizing the cookout over the summer in July so that they could coordinate the effort with numerous sponsors and fellow Black organizations. Junior Tiane Parris, who serves as the Vice President of 13 Percent, was on a similar wavelength. Parris reached out to all of the collaborating organizations a few months ago and presented the idea for a kick-off event, which Lamothe excitedly adopted, as he already had plans in the works to provide a fun setting where everyone would feel included as soon as they arrived on campus. 


As it continued with the planning process, the organization extended the goal to involve students from local schools and areas. While the majority of attendees were from Villanova, the Black organizations also hosted people from Rosemont College, Gwynedd Mercy University and Philadelphia. Also, aspiring to build an even larger community, the organizations invited members of the BSU organizations at Temple University and Saint Joseph’s University.


Everyone participating emphasized the importance of community, and its power was on clear display at the event. Lamothe explained how it could not have put on the production without the support, funding and aid of the many groups that worked together to make this event the success that it was. The team, along with BSU, included African Caribbean Villanovans, National Association of Black Accountants, Black Law Student Association, National Society of Black Engineers, Thirteen Percent, Delta Sigma Theta, Office of Student Involvement, Office of Intercultural Affairs, Student Government Association, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Department and UNITAS. 


Underneath guests’ feet lay the words “Unity, Diversity and Empowerment,” which leaders of Inclusion Week painted across the West Campus court last year, and the art’s vibrancy mirrors the event. Like the court, the cookout was upbeat, colorful and simply happy.


“Black people are sort of associated with the struggles that we’ve gone through in the past, which is unfortunate, but is also our history and our reality on campus,” Lamothe said. “The cookout allows us to be in our own world with love and care and the reminder that we are all looking out for each other.” 


Just as important as it is to recognize the unique hardships that Black students face, especially at a predominately white institution, it is equally necessary to focus on the joy and strong community, both of which were embraced at the cookout. 


These values of inclusion and community are so integral to the Black organizations that they are evident to people upon meeting anyone at their events. Freshman Bryan Awehkisob recounted how welcoming the cookout’s environment was and how he left knowing so many more people than he did before he came. 


“It was easy to make relationships and nice to just see people who look like you,” he said. 


Awehkisob played in the 3v3 tournament and explained that while it was super competitive, players still exemplified sportsmanship and respect. 


He also said that many of his conversations were with upperclassmen with similar majors who gave advice on navigating Villanova and specifically various career paths within the business school. Additionally, freshmen mentioned that they learned a lot about opportunities and resources that exist for Black students.