Black Student Union hosts first campus Black Lives Matter flag raising


Photo courtesy of Kayla Mutchler.

The American flag and the Black Lives Matter flag fly outside of the German Club, West Haven, Feb. 1, 2022.

On Feb. 1, members of the University of New Haven community gathered outside of the German Club to raise a Black Lives Matter flag for the first time in campus history.

The event began with Dean of Students Ophelie Rowe-Allen, followed by leading voices of the Black Student Union (BSU) Ariana Eastwood and Saniyah Brinney and guest speaker and alumni U.S. Congressman Jamaal Bowman, the first Black representative of New York’s 16th Congressional District.

Rowe-Allen spoke about the value of education within the university community and the value of conversation around the experiences of its Black members. She said, “Black history is all our history.”

She closed her statement with a call to action for the community, saying, “Widen your vision so that the history that we share this month and every month come to be our history too.”

BSU president Eastwood said that this is the first BLM flag-raising in the university’s history. Eastwood also said that BSU “allowed conversation to be discussed not only about what is going on in our nation, but what is going on in this campus.”

BSU vice president Brinney said the flag-raising sought to “influence and bring unified light to our beloved campus.” She also said that the flag was a symbol to “promote unity and inclusion across all races.”

Together, Brinney and Eastwood raised the Black Lives Matter flag.

In his opening words, Congressman Bowman said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to be an alumni than I am this morning.”

Throughout his speech, Bowman highlighted the importance of education and constant discussion throughout the community. He also touched on the history of transformative movements in regard to “being honest about where we came from, how we got here and where we need to go.”

Ariana Eastwood, president of the BSU, speaks at the flag raising ceremony, West Haven, Feb. 1, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Mutchler.)

Bowman discussed systemic racism’s prevalence throughout society and the value of honest conversation in order to counteract such implemented racism in the current system. Bowman discussed his observations and outlooks on multicultural history education throughout not just the local community but the country as a whole. In his speech, Bowman highlighted how Black History Month falls into a window of 28 days, and still is not covered across the span of the entire year.

How should these discussions be started outside of Black History Month? Bowman repeatedly said, “Just do it.”

Bowman and Eastwood spoke about the need for collaboration within the university community. Bowman said, “different groups com[ing] together throughout the year to do events together and collaborate” would be a step in the right direction. Eastwood also spoke of her desire for the BSU to do more co-sponsorships to attract more people to come out and learn about these subjects.

Black History Month has been observed for the past 52 years, with the BLM activist movement and flag emerging in 2013.

As Bowman said, “This flag raising today, and what this Black Student Union is leading at the University of New Haven, is what everyone in our country needs to be a part of.”