AFRICAN STUDENT UNION HISTORY
The Afrikan Student Union (ASU) is an organization dedicated to serving all Black students, staff and faculty at UCLA. ASU was formed at UCLA in 1966. Its purpose was to increase the enrollment of Black students; as the Black population was comprised entirely of athletes at that time. The organization’s founding was influenced by the increase in student activism brought on by the Civil Rights movement. The organization’s founding ideology was wrought by its early leaders of the Black Panther Party and the United Slaves Organization (“US”) during the 1960s. Recinents of this influence are still present in current ASU traditions as we still celebrate traditions such as Kwanza.,the national Civil Rights Movement, and the urban rebellions that engulfed the Greater Los Angeles Area in the 1960’s. During that period, the ASU Chairperson and several other student organizers created the High Potential Program at UCLA. This program’s goal was to increase Black and Latino student enrollment at UCLA. As as a pilot program, student leaders worked in South Central LA and East LA where they directly enrolled African American and Latino students. Sadly the program soon ended; yet, its creation birthed the Academic Advancement Project in 1970. From 1968-69, the High Potential Program increased the number of qualified minority students admitted to the University.
The 1980s brought the injustices of the South African Apartheid to the international stage. At the time, the Black Student Alliance, took the charge of activism on behalf of Black South Africans and demanded the University divest from sponsoring organizations like Coca-Cola and Bank of America. These corporations were financially supporting the inhumanities taking place in the African region. ASU was sponsored rallies and demonstrations with other student organizations, demanding fair dealings in South Africa. This era of global activism ushered not only UCLA students, but the Black demographic in American into a global consciousness. With the strong impression made by Afrikan History 101 professor Dr. Mazizi Kunene, student identified with this global consciousness and felt the impression to function in the context of the Afrikan Diaspora, and not just the Americas. As a result, the Anti-Apartheid Movements birthed a new name and a new organization.
The Anti-Apartheid Movement immediately birthed the Academic Supports Program in 1985 while the organization was still BSA. In response to the shockingly low retention and graduation rates of Black students, Chairperson Mandla Kayise crafted the Academic Support Program (ASP) with BSA leaders. ASP is a student-led retention project created to disseminate the model of “Empowerment” as a means to increase the retention rates of Black students at UCLA. The movements also birthed the Afrikan Education Project, which extended the Afrikan history development that Dr. Kunene implemented at UCLA. The program began at a time where Afrikan history and consciousness was not readily available and extended the university’s resources with the community.
In 1989, the organization finally made its transition into the Afrikan Student Union. By way of a ballot initiative, the Black population voted nearly 100% to recognize themselves in the context of their position in the Afrikan Diaspora. The name change was meant to signify the unity of all oppressed Black peoples. It encompasses the oppression of Afro-Latinx people, “Black” Africans, the Caribbeans, Europe and beyond. It is a recognition of our unity amid our oppression and the fact that we all originate from one place. This unifying message also took form over other Black organizations, who agreed to uplift this message, allowing ASU to function as the “umbrella” organization over the 40+ Black student orgs into what is now called the “Harambee Council.” These entities contribute wide sweeping resources to the Black student, staff and faculty populations be it professional, cultural, political or social.
Later, in anticipation of the effects of the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, the legislation that abolished Affirmative Action in the state of California, ASU created S.H.A.P.E. (Students Heightening Academic Performance through Education) Program. S.H.A.P.E. continues to increase the percentage of UC eligible Black students by providing tutoring, student and parent counseling and mentorship to inner-city high school students. SHAPE was the first Access project at UCLA; however, today we have several other access orgs that cater to the various communities of color facing access and retention issues at UCLA.
Through advocacy projects and the creation of special programs and events, we address the various concerns of these key populations.
ASU continues to advocate for Black Bruins, recently we secured the agreement to a $40 million Endowment for Black students, a Black Student Resource Center, an Anti-Discrimination policy, secured funding for our Projects, new Black student housing and UC police diversity training by the university. Our most recent victories include the Referendum (a vote by students to increase fees), which secured our Project Directors in 2016; holistic admissions reviews in the admissions process, of which has combated the lows of the post-Prop 209 era; and an African American recruiter in the Admissions Office. All of which have helped deliver our highest Black enrollment numbers yet. ASU also created the “Black by Popular Demand” whose targeted efforts have skyrocketed our Black first-year and transfer enrollment to the highest numbers since the passage of Prop 209. Currently, the university boasts the highest Black enrollment of all schools in the UC system.
Currently, the Afrikan Student Union combats the low admissions rates of Afrikan students at UCLA while continuing to advance the rights and overall quality of life for all students.
ASU creates social, intellectual, and political opportunities for students through community outreach, social networking, and political engagement while working to defeat problems that impact our communities.
**Today, we maintain professional connections with the following organizations: Urban League, NAACP, Bringer of Hope Foundation, Afrikan Black Coalition, Black Lives Matter***