Social justice leadership
Denison’s Black Student Union is one of the oldest student clubs on campus, and one of the most influential. Biochemistry major Heaven Wade ’21 is the Chief Minister of the BSU: She relishes her role as a leader on campus, especially during a time when social justice initiatives are making news — and changes — across the nation.
Black Lives Matter
“The majority of the BSU executive board and members are involved in the Black Lives Matter movement,” says Wade. After the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more, the BSU hosted a Juneteenth (June 19th) event. Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is the holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States.
“The BSU usually doesn’t host events over the summer but we believed it was important for the Denison community to get together to talk about these pressing issues,” says Wade. “We hosted the event in collaboration with The Doobie to talk about what’s going on in society today and how we could cultivate Denison to be more accepting of all.”
When classes convened again in the fall, the BSU held a candlelight vigil for Breonna Taylor outside of Slayter Union. “We wanted to bring her story to light and give her life the respect she deserved,” says Wade. “It was a very moving vigil.” More than 100 Denisonians gathered and peacefully crossed the campus chanting “BLM,” “No Justice No Peace,” “Say Her Name,” and “Breonna Taylor.”
“It was honestly one of my favorite moments at Denison: To see people from all different backgrounds come out and support such an important movement”
“It was honestly one of my favorite moments at Denison: To see people from all different backgrounds come out and support such an important movement,” she recalls.
On being a leader
“As the chief minister of the BSU, I have to make decisions that will benefit the entire Black community,” says Wade. She adds that she also needs to be aware of current events across a plethora of different cultures. “I don’t only focus on Black issues because at BSU we need to support all cultures and fight for the justice that they deserve.”
“Overall, being the chief minister of the Black Student Union has amplified my perspective on making decisions for the greater good and to be aware of the injustices and events that are occurring around me, even if it doesn’t pertain to my community.
The BSU also is a focal point that helps forge close ties between current Black students and Denison’s Black Alumni Association. “The president and vice president of BAA are mentoring me and my vice chief minister,” says Wade. “We know we can go to them with issues or questions about the BSU or just life in general.” For example, the BSU invited BAA alumni to discuss the importance of the upcoming election, and why research is important prior to voting, especially for local elections.
“These are very unprecedented times, but I am proud of my executive board for continuing to make the most out of this year,” adds Wade. “I think we hosted a lot of essential events over this past semester and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”