C/O Black Students' Association

From relationships to entertainment and wellness, BSA invites Black students to relax and chat with different editions of the MacChats series 

In a school of over 30,000 students, how do you find community? Sometimes it might be about connecting with those who share the same interests and passions; sometimes, it can be about finding a bond in shared experiences. 

Created about two years ago, McMaster’s Black Students’ Association recognized the minority of Black students on campus and aimed to create a community where all Black students can connect with one another. 

Ashley Assam, BSA’s president, explained that the importance of creating unique spaces for Black students lies in the uniqueness of Black experiences in the first place. 

“There's no secret that Black people have been marginalized for a very long time, especially given everything that happened a couple years ago with all these cases of police brutality and obviously the murder of George Floyd. It definitely took a hit on the community and I feel like having a space is necessary because Black students also face these mental health challenges that have to do with their own experiences, but [these] don't often go addressed or they will need to get addressed by someone else who understands their experience,” said Assam. 

One of the events that BSA has been hosting is called MacChats. MacChats invites Black students to get together for casual conversations. Usually, a theme will be announced for each MacChats discussion, but students are not limited to speaking about those topics only. 

This winter semester, BSA has hosted a total of three MacChats so far with varying themes. This includes conversations about relationships, sports, entertainment and well-being. 

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Assam explained that during these events, BSA members will pose a number of questions to the group and allow students to carry their own conversations. With limited capacity for in-person events, MacChats have been held on Zoom so far and breakout rooms are often used for people to divide into smaller groups. 

Although MacChats serve as a space for casual conversation, Assam shared that MacChats help cultivate deeper, meaningful conversations as well. For example, in their first event about relationships, there were discussions about what it means to engage in relationships with other races as a Black person. 

Some of these discussions may be more sensitive or up for debate, Assam explained, but what’s important is that BSA wants everyone to learn from each other. 

“The whole purpose is not to like shut down other people's ideas; it's just a place for you to voice your opinions and also kind of learn from other people and learn about what they think,” said Assam. 

With its unique role on campus, BSA acts as a social group where students can relax and bond with one another during events like MacChats, but Assam added that BSA is also there to help Black students succeed. BSA will often share resources to help connect Black students with opportunities in hopes of helping them feel supported throughout their time at McMaster. 

To Assam, BSA is about having a safe space with this special community.  

“BSA really just means having a community of people on campus that truly just want the best for you. So, what we tried to do with BSA is let every Black student know that you don't have to be any way — any certain way. You don't have to adhere to any stereotype. You don't have to look a certain way just to exist as who you are. [Y]ou're free to be who you are and we accept you as who you are and we want to see you succeed,” said Assam.

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