Bailee Padgett, Contributing Writer
A feeling of community hung in the air on a chilly afternoon as students of VCU ate pizza, listened to upbeat music and socialized while walking around the vending shops set up at VCU’s Black Student Union block party
VCU’s Black Student Union hosted its first in-person event since the pandemic on Sept. 23 in the University Student Commons Plaza with vendors, food and music by DJ Eddie Jones as a celebration of diverse culture and a warm welcome back for students, according to BSU’s Instagram.
The idea for the event was conceived in late May with the creation of a Google form where peers and members of the community could sign up to volunteer or offer their business as a vendor. It was promoted on social media and various platforms with an open invitation to community members interested, according to BSU President Cheyenne Combs.
“My vision for the event was just for students of all classifications to enjoy themselves with all the music, dancing, food, and vendors showcasing what they are vending and networking to gain opportunities,” Combs said. “I definitely think this will be a good start for BSU and a great start for our Black students.”
The COVID-19 pandemic left a lot of activities and opportunities dormant for BSU, so this event allows new students to actively see their community being represented and to have that feeling of inclusion, Combs said.
Many of these businesses signed up after BSU members reached out as a way to promote their products, according to VCU sophomore and art vendor Isaac Martin.
“I think giving people, especially small Black-owned businesses, a platform to do business is really great,” Martin said. “It is good that we were able to set up on campus to make it more accessible to our primary target audience.”
The Rep ‘Ya Block event is the start of a bright future for the Black student union with local community members coming together, according to BSU membership chair Ragen Starks.
“We had to plan over the summertime and we were thinking about a way to get everyone together,” Starks said. “We are going through a membership change so we are starting off fresh and this event is the beginning of a beautiful future for the Black Student Union and the beginning of something better.”
The vendors displayed a variety of products to sell and promote such as cosmetics, clothing, artwork with free goodies and even haircuts, according to BSU’s instagram.
Combs said students of VCU and members of the community were able to stop by or stay awhile with the convenient location of the event being right on campus. Small crowds of people gathered around each stand to check out the products, including VCU senior Cameron Davis.
“I heard about this event from friends,” Davis said. “The Raw and Righteous vendor was my favorite.”
Raw and Righteous is a clothing brand by VCU sophomore Sun Long. The brand represents the choices that people make in daily life and the balance between being raw and righteous. The business made an appearance at the block party after Combs personally invited him to showcase his clothing, according to Long.
BSU member and art vendor Sydney Wilson said she saw the promotion for the event on BSU’s social media accounts, and reached out as a way to engage actively with the community and her peers.
“It is a great opportunity for small business owners on campus to sell and promote our work. Hopefully it gives us the engagement and helps us get the experience we need. It helps us as students to connect more with one another,” Wilson said. “We have talents, jobs, and we can gain a more deeper connection with each other this way.”
At the end of the night, the party-goers and BSU members took a group photo in celebration of the community, according to BSU’s instagram.
“With people coming to the university from different locations and states we thought that a block party would be a good way for students to connect on campus … a new innovative way to bring the Black student body together,” Combs said.