As another Black History Month comes to a close, the Black Student Union (BSU) of SUNY New Paltz continues to host events that capture the beauty and importance of the Black community’s representation. Originally scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 29, the “For Us By Us” gala has been rescheduled to Sunday, March 8.
The purpose of the “For Us By Us” gala is to “represent Black culture [and] display its excellence in many different fields within this past decade,” according to BSU president and fourth-year philosophy and general business major Miles Figaro.
The name and theme of the gala, “For Us By Us.” was in honor of Daymond John’s clothing line FUBU — a clothing line designed for Black people, by Black people.
“[John’s] idea matched ours … We wanted to create an event that is for our people by our people,” Figaro said.
The goal for the “For Us By Us” Gala is to be an “open space.”
“We want people to have the freedom to roam, explore and discuss what we have to offer this year,” Figaro said.
The BSU hosts various educational events and programs for students to learn about Black culture such as the “We’ve Always Been Here” and “The Black Relationship” discussions held last February.
In addition to the discussion surrounding Black culture within the past decade, the “open space” is where photographs of BSU students will be displayed for the enjoyment of attendees.
The photoshoot for the “For Us By Us” gala took place on Saturday, Feb. 22 and was led by photographer Ohene Okera, a fourth-year psychology major.
“The photoshoot was a massive success … Many people came out to take professional, casual and silly photos with their friends. The space was lively and it brought everyone together as we laughed at some photos, [and] were amazed at the artistic flare of some of our students,” Figaro said.
This was an important shoot to Okera, whose “intention behind wanting to do the photoshoot was to highlight the existence of the Black community on the SUNY New Paltz campus.”
While New Paltz students are quick to emphasize the diversity of their campus, in reality, “The Black community makes up only 7% of [the campus’ population.] A minority who can go unrecognized,” Okera said.
Not only a photographer, Okera is a historian for the BSU, and a large part of his excitement for this shoot was to “give praise to this underrepresented group.”
Okera clearly brought out the best in the BSU students willing to be photographed and did so through his vision of capturing the reality of Black people.
“With this photoshoot, I photographed Black people just as they are, just being, so their existence could be felt and seen,” Okera said.
The comfort the photographed students felt was due in part to the fact that Ohene Okera himself is Black. The idea that this photoshoot was led by Black photographers is significant as it goes right along with the theme, “For Us By Us.”
“For me, the significance lies in perspective. Being that I am a member of this populace, I am aware of the misrepresentation that occurs often. Therefore it was easy for this point of view to blend into my photography,” Okera said. “I wanted to construct images that strayed away from the typical portrayal of Black people. I believe Black people should be captured in a certain way, one that shows their vulnerability and acknowledges their experiences. I want to make sure that it gives credence to their reality.”
For more information on the “For Us By Us” gala and other events from the BSU, you can follow their instagram page @bsu.at.np.