BSAY receives award from the Connecticut MLK Holiday Commission

Miranda Duster '19, Jamie Hobson '17, and Alexandra Williams '17 accepted the award on behalf of BSAY. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Hobson)The Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission honored the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY) on Jan. 18 at the 30th annual celebration in Hartford for the students’ work last semester in leading discussions on race and inclusivity on campus.

In a press release, the commission commended BSAY members on their leadership in protesting for “the continuation of their rights for basic respect of culture and livelihoods, to demand that their existence not be invalidated on campus. In keeping with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles of nonviolence, these courageous young adults pushed back at some of the school’s administration for objecting to a call for sensitivity towards all.”

President Salovey announced a list of key initiatives on Nov. 17 in an ongoing effort to build a more inclusive Yale.

BSAY was founded in 1967 to advocate for increased black enrollment, the development of Afro-American Studies, improved relations with the African-American community of New Haven, and the establishment of a cultural center for black students on Yale’s campus. Today, the group continues advocating for the students at Yale, taking political stands, and creating the sense of community “necessary to unite students to work for positive change,” according to the group’s website.

In her acceptance speech, current BSAY president Jamie Hobson ’17 thanked former president Lex Barlowe ’17 for her “fearless and generous leadership” while Barlowe was president last semester, when issues of race and inclusivity came to the forefront of campus discourse. Hobson urged the audience to think more critically of last semester’s events and not oversimplify them to a debate over free speech or safe spaces. Instead of these experiences being “ridiculed or ignored,” she said, she hopes they inspire “considerable thought and action.”

“Drawing on the precedent set forth by our ancestors, we participated in countless sit-ins, numerous teach-ins, and many marches,” she said. “Refusing to lose infinite hope, the students of color at Yale and beyond united in unimaginable numbers to display the pride, the beauty, and the strength of their communities for all to see, making sure that everyone not only heard their voices, but also listened to them.”

Pointing to the concurrent movements across other university campuses, Hobson said last semester served as a reminder that the “struggle to maintain our rights for basic respect of our cultures and livelihood continues.” She dedicated the award to students of color, and particularly minority women, who “had to become the consultants of their races and the educators of their ethnicities, and [to] those who had to fight once again to ensure that they would be recognized, respected, and prioritized.”

BSAY helped organize the "March of Resistance" on Nov. 9. (Photo by Román Castellanos-Monfil)

“One of BSAY’s former presidents, Micah Jones ’16, created an inspiring statement that soon became the rallying cry for students on campus — ‘We out here. We’ve been here. We ain’t leaving. We are loved.’,” noted Hobson.

The Connecticut Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission was established in 1986 to ensure that the commemoration of King’s birthday is meaningful and reflective of the spirit with which he lived and the struggles for which he died, and to maintain a clearinghouse of programs and activities relating to the observance and promotion of the holiday in the state. The other honorees this year were June Archer, author of “Yes! Everyday Can Be a Good Day”; Leonard Epps, principal of Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School; and John Lobon, member of the Syracuse 8.

To read more about the many Yale initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion on campus, visit: