A new student organization was recently founded by two students at East Carolina University, Shellbi Chapman and Naomi Whitaker and together, the pair founded the Black Student Athlete Organization (BSAO).
Both Whitaker and Chapman are student-athletes as members of the track and field team and they each graduated in the spring, however, they have a year of athletic eligibility left. Whitaker runs both the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles and Chapman runs the 400m hurdles as well.
“The Black Student Athlete Organization is a group of student-athletes promoting African-American history, culture, and social justice issues,” Whitaker said. “It is comprised of students of all different walks of life that want to promote the same thing.”
The founding members tag July 9 as the founding date, but the organization has yet to be made official by the university. There are still a few steps needed to be taken in order for the organization to be officiated by ECU.The organization will need to be registered through the Engage app while it is still in the planning stage, according to Chapman.
Together, Whitaker and Chapman said the goal of the BSAO is to give a larger platform and voice to black student-athletes, as well as giving black athletes a source of community at ECU. The organization will also provide sources of education regarding social injustice and African-American culture.
The organization’s mission statement is “to promote an inclusive environment for black student athletes to further influence values of inclusivity, diversity, and social justice on the campus of East Carolina University, the surrounding Greenville community, and beyond,” according to Whitaker.
As far as who the organization is targeting as its audience, ECU varsity student-athletes are the main objective. The goal is to reach university athletics as a whole, but while more participants may come from intramural and club sports, communication with those programs will be more difficult.
“As of now it's for our varsity sports,” Chapman said. “We haven’t really contacted anybody outside of our varsity sports because we have no way of doing that. But I feel though as athletes, we all have the same struggles that we need to include everyone in at some point.”
Being inclusive is an important aspect of the organization, Whitaker said. With the way college athletics is monetized, she said everyone’s voice needs to be heard throughout the organization and the university.
By focusing on the people, the founders of BSAO plan to have community service and educational events organized by a committee and partnerships with other organizations that will be involved. There have not been any plans for specific future events, however, the focus of education and social injustice will be the centerpiece of planned events, according to Chapman and Whitaker.
“One of the main goals we had is to not just have events where it’s just athletes there,” Whitaker said. “We wanted to really partner with student organizations that are already established that compromise of the everyday student, just to fill that gap that we have between student-athletes and the regular student population. We are all trying to spread the same message, so why not do it together?”
As the necessary steps are taken to make BSAO an official ECU organization, the founding members are working hard to create a group that encourages culture and community among student-athletes. The founding members can be contacted via email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.