Student-led BLAC — Black Led Art Coalition — established at PCA&D

Attending art school as a Black student means you may find yourself the only person of color in a room.

Nationwide less than 8% of degrees awarded in visual and performing arts are awarded to Black students.

At PCA&D, too, Black students know with what that statistic means at the most fundamental level.

“You’re familiar with that feeling, like you look around in orientation” to find other Black faces, says Shazeem Sueksagan ’21, Illustration.

Earlier this year, the administration established the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to deepen and formalize the College’s commitment to broadening its DEI focus on everything from campus climate, to hiring, to curriculum. The committee, composed of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, has been meeting since January.

But a group of students also had long wanted a student-led organization, one with a formal structure, purpose, and plans for how it could start to build a sense of community, continuity, and belonging, for the College’s Black students.

And that has led to the founding of BLAC: the Black Led Art Coalition, fully student-led and with the aim of supporting and celebrating PCA&D’s Black students.

Sueksagan says he, Delaina Jolley ’22, Illustration; Kendall White ’23, Illustration; Isiah Bates ’22, Fine Art; and other students “have been stewing over the idea for a while — some kind of Black Student Union organization but looser, with others able to come in and engage in discussion.”

Determined to start the academic year with those efforts already underway, Jolley says, those PCA&D students and others reached out to classmates over the summer. By the time school launched again in August, the groundwork had been laid for BLAC.

BLAC will hold its first event, a Kahoot! trivia night, on Friday, Oct. 16, at 6 pm. PCA&D students should check BLAC’s Instagram bio, at @blac_pcad, for details.

 

It is, the group’s founding members say, a club open to any and all PCA&D students — with one major guideline:

“We just ask that it’s a safe space” for support, for discussion, and for activities, says White, “not a space for debates.”

“Coming from a very diverse high school, and coming here and not really having a space where Black students could meet with each other” has sometimes been difficult, Jolley says. “Isiah and I always talked about that, since our first year.” Thats why Jolley, already a member of the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, has been on board from the beginning. “I thought I could reach out and really help bring the organization to life.”

Members hope that BLAC can become a space where that sense of “belonging” can be encouraged.

“Of all the schools I’ve attended, I’ve never had that community,” says White, “and I want the (PCA&D students) who follow us to have that. It’s really freeing to be able to build something specific to PCA&D.”

“Freeing and intimidating,” Sueksagan adds, “straight from scratch, to tackle problems and issues as they arise without that groundwork” of an already-established organization.

Sueksagan says he hopes having an established organization such as BLAC will make planning events that center the Black experience easier, and he also hopes BLAC will reach out to already-established Black Student Unions at other colleges.

“I want to leave with everything in place” for BLAC to move forward, says Sueksagan, a senior, “so future PCA&D students won’t have to go through the same thing” and all feel like they have a place at PCA&D.

For more information, contact BLAC on Instagram: @blac.pcad

Top: BLAC logo designed by Deidre Bradshaw