Empowered Students Empower Students: UCLA ASU Chair Samone Anderson Holds Administration Accountable
PHOTOS COURTESY OF UCLA AFRIKAN STUDENT UNION
Through activism, scholarship, and service, student leadership can empower and influence others towards a greater goal. And when spearheaded by those equipped to influence and guide, one can only begin to imagine the strides towards reform. Who is this person, you may ask? Who obtains the qualities of a leader, motivator, and activist? The answer to your question is a woman by the name of Samone Anderson. From Richmond, California, and a current fourth-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Anderson has connected and carved out spaces for Black Bruins in hopes to “see the community in a better state than what it was when [she] got there.”
Although assimilating to her role as the Community Service Coordinator, Anderson knew that her community deserved much more. After her recent success in becoming the Afrikan Student Union’s (ASU) Chairperson, the hurdle to creating a safe space for Black students became one of many challenges.
After seven years of persistence and determination and an extra push from the racial unrest and Black Lives Matter protests during Summer 2020, Black students at UCLA were granted the opportunity to have a Black Bruin Resource Center (BBRC). In hopes to develop community, encourage leadership, and foster relationships, this space serves the cultural and social needs of the community from retention efforts, programs, and activities to build and celebrate the all-inclusive African diaspora. However, the utilization of the center has not been as easy as it seems.
"The “collective quest for liberation…,” as Anderson puts it, “...is vital in the fight for our Black legacy.”
Aside from these accomplishments, the greatest obstacle has been the advocacy for ASU’s programs to be rehoused in the BBRC since their withdrawal from the UCLA Community Programs Office (CPO) on November 18th, 2021. Anderson shares, “It was heartbreaking to cut a ribbon this Fall for projects that are not being housed.” It comes as no surprise that the hostile and toxic work environment from staff members of the CPO provoked such a decision. She affirms, “The space initially created by Black students is now the most anti-Black environment on campus today.” From the mishandling of student leadership funds, verbal and physical harassment within the workplace (mainly towards Black women) to the violations and manipulations of public policy, CPO is now facing the repercussions of terrorizing the livelihood of Black-student workers and activists.
Concerning such disappointments, Chancellor Gene Block and Vice-Chancellor Monroe Gordon’s tremendous lack of efforts to mend and repair this issue has left many of ASU’s vital projects from being utilized by Black students within the BBRC. Anderson states, “...such lack of involvement is expected, as many turn a blind eye to the mismanagement of finances when it’s meant to be utilized by students of color,” and she adds, “But I intend to hold Gene Block accountable to that.”
With the service disruptions of the Afrikan Education Project (AEP), Students Heightening Academic Performance through Education (SHAPE), and the Academic Supports Program (ASP), Anderson has been fighting for “the university to see the value of student-initiated resources.” Though this becomes an ongoing battle, Anderson persists in being relentless in her efforts and intentions to fulfill the demands of ASU and hold Gene Block accountable. Following these demands, as well as the solidarity amongst the Mother Org Coalition (MO), it is clear ASU will not enable administrators to oppress and endanger the safety of students of color nor permit them to neglect their responsibility to protect and support the physical and mental well-being and educational journeys of Black Bruins.
Since then, Anderson has exuded pride and hope in her community to foster such spaces for those within the Afrikan diaspora. The “collective quest for liberation…,” as Anderson puts it, “...is vital in the fight for our Black legacy.” This Black legacy encompasses the projects and programs that have brought Black students to the forefront of retention and access. With AEP catering to the youth in elementary and middle school, SHAPE providing retention and resources for high school students, and ASP providing counseling for Black Bruins, this lineage of opportunities to higher education is finally being seen through the Black lens.
It remains true to Anderson that the importance of such activism, advocacy, and demands for change inspires other students to take the initiative and leadership in their communities. She says in confidence, “We have always led first,” which commonly appoints Black leaders to lay the groundwork for this progressive and inclusive change. It is irrefutable that the Black community persists to be empowered through this form of activism and active voice. Samone Anderson has proven to be a vital part of the community, using her role to project the voices of others. And despite such opposition, one thing is clear to Black Bruins: “UCLA wouldn’t have made it to 100 years without us.”