Photo: Connor McCourtney
“You don’t have to be them to befriend them.”
That’s the slogan of the Coalition of Black Students, an organization established by a group of black students on campus in 1968 as a response to the then-recent assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the decades since, Drake’s CBS has seen plenty of changes.
This year specifically, CBS has made great strides, and its name is well-known throughout Drake.
Junior Matt Martin said he feels this year’s executive council has greatly influenced CBS.
“[Senior] Lawrence Crawford at the helm as president really challenged us to not only program for social purposes, but focus on education and outreach,” Martin said.
Crawford, on the other hand, said he feels CBS has maintained a strong position throughout its time on campus.
“I’ve often viewed CBS as the ‘parent organization’ to other multicultural organizations on campus, largely because of how long it’s been around at Drake. Forty-three years represents a longer history than many of Drake’s tenured professors,” Crawford said.
The amount of financial support CBS receives from Student Senate and SFAC often ranges from $17,000 to $21,000 annually. Crawford said that money and the amount of programming produced annually have helped contribute to CBS’s growing presence on campus.
This year, CBS unveiled its new slogan: ‘You don’t have to be us to befriend us.’ Members said the motto helped focus programming this year.
“Almost all programming was approached with an attitude of ‘How can we educate the campus?’ That meaning both the education of CBS members and the education of other non-black or African-American students,” Martin said.
The organization has put on 15 events this year; attendance at each of them has been great.
“I work a lot in the Office of Admissions and when I’m showing a prospective student and their family around campus, I can just feel that the foremost question in that student’s head is, ‘How is the student life at Drake and will I have fun?’” Crawford said. “Throughout most of CBS’s events this year, I think we’ve managed to answer that question in a way that has either challenged, intrigued or entertained those in attendance, and in some sense, left them wanting more.”
As Crawford prepares to graduate, the future of CBS rests in the hands of a new president.
“It’s just my hope that CBS continues to permeate its presence throughout the Drake community until its mission statement is fulfilled and its vision is realized,” Crawford said. “And if that takes another 43 years to achieve, then so be it. Our work won’t be done at Drake until our environment begins to operate at the best levels possible and appropriate for providing ‘an exceptional learning environment.’”
Crawford said he feels that his educational experience has been enhanced significantly by participating in CBS.
“I’ve been able to interact with many different people representing various personalities, ethnicities, socioeconomic environments, as well as demographic and geographic identities.”
For Martin, joining CBS his first year at Drake was a necessity.
“I was completely culture-shocked when I first arrived on campus and had a need to socialize with others who looked like me, talked like me and had similar experiences growing up in mostly black or urban environments,” he said.
Crawford hopes to see more black faculty members at Drake to help provide relatable academic mentors for students and perhaps help other students who feel the way Martin did when he first arrived.
“Our programming has to fill many different areas of the college experience,” said Crawford.
Meetings are open to anyone and are held every
other Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Black Cultural Center,
1149 28th Street, Des Moines, IA 50311