The University of Tulsa’s energetic and dedicated extracurricular organizations are among the many reasons why students choose to make TU their home away from home. One organization that has been a source of pride for many students, staff and faculty is the Association of Black Collegians (ABC). Founded in 1969 by the Rev. Gerald Davis and classmates, the association has been inspiring and educating campus for more than 50 years.
Before her college career began, ABC President Erica McAlester – a senior sociology major with minors in African American studies and education – eagerly awaited the day she would get to join the association. “I saw ABC listed on the university website and knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of the group,” she said. By spring 2020, McAlester joined the executive board as the branding director, but the pandemic path was disruptive. “We’ve had to adjust a lot in recent years,” she said. “I remember having a great time at ABC’s annual Soul Food Soiree during Black History Month in 2020. A few weeks later, we all found ourselves staring at computer screens wondering what to expect next.”
ABC endured by keeping up with each other and their community despite hardships. Outside meetings when weather was nice and consistent activity on their Instagram account kept members and alumni up to date. By the time McAlester’s junior year began, ABC was reinvigorated. Monthly meetings, annual events such as the BLACKOUT homecoming tailgate and more contributed to a sense of normalcy.
A community-oriented organization
During the past four years, McAlester has seen immense growth within the group as members seek new ways to offer different experiences. “This year, we hosted our first annual Welcome Black Weekend following the first week of class. It was a back-to-school pool party with a cookout,” she said. “We’ve also established a new annual event called Gospel Fest.” In an effort to inform students about the history of Tulsa, ABC hosted a trip to Greenwood that included a tour of the Greenwood Rising museum and Black-owned businesses and an opportunity to explore the historic area. For Kwanzaa, the group posted a video each day of the holiday to explain that day’s principle. In doing so, ABC kept its virtual audiences involved and informed.
In addition to the association’s engaged and entertaining campus events, the group participates in community outreach such as volunteering at Oasis Fresh Market and monthly Bible studies. ABC also collaborates with the National Pan-Hellenic Council (D9), which – along with all student organizations that are centered around or include Black or Afro-identifying students – participated in the Black Expo and raised awareness of the various spaces created by members who understand them. “All ABC events support the mission of our organization as we publicly express our culture, talents, experiences and more,” said McAlester. “We show the aspects of our lifestyles that make us unique while also disproving stereotypes as we strive to present a different perspective of our race.”
Upholding values and encouraging growth
As far as goals are concerned, McAlester said ABC aims to ensure the voices of Black and Afro-identifying students are acknowledged as societal issues affect the experiences of minorities in the real world and on a college campus. “We bring issues forward and to the attention of those with power on campus while ensuring that a safe space is available for students to freely express their personalities, thoughts and talents,” she said. ABC’s mission statement speaks to the values ABC aims to uphold: growth, positivity, diversity, inclusivity, boldness, pro-blackness, persistence, intentionality and unity. “We strive to make sure that these values are understood, accepted and expected on campus,” she said.
McAlester foresees that the organization will advance as the number of Black and Afro-identifying students grows. “We hope that students continue to engage and become consistent members of the organization so that ABC can evolve into an even larger and more accessible community,” she said.
Express, acknowledge, expose
McAlester identified several ways students can guarantee these goals are being met. “Making sure that
Black and Afro-identifying students are proud of who they are and are unafraid to express their uniqueness on campus is a key priority,” she said. “It is important that we do not lose sight of who we are and our values even if society fails to recognize our greatness.”
For students who do not identify as Black or of African descent, uplifting ABC through active support is one of the best ways to show allyship. “Attending events, acknowledging discrepancies, helping change another’s point of view and exposing fellow classmates or faculty to different ideas along with a host of other methods are also crucial ways to show support,” said McAlester. Students can always back ABC by being present, involved and allies even if it means being placed in an uncomfortable position: “One moment of discomfort does not compare to a life afflicted with oppression.”
Looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month? ABC has you covered! Get involved with the following events and check out the events calendar for more Black History Month activities:
Poetry Night – Feb. 8
ABC Social Outing at SKATES – Feb. 10
ABC Soul Food Soiree – Feb. 15
Harriet Tubman documentary and discussion – Feb. 21
ABC Panel – Feb. 22
International Extravaganza Trivia Night – Feb. 27
ABC Gospel Fest – Feb. 28