The University of Miami’s United Black Students is a historic part of campus culture. The organization was chartered in 1967 by Harold Long and 13 other students who decided that the university needed a support system for African Americans. As well as aiming to empower and uplift African American students by giving them a home on campus, UBS also tries to expose other students to African American culture.
Glen Howard, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, said, “Black Awareness Month is designed to not only unite the black students, but to engage the entire university in the promotion and support of black students’ history and cultures which they represent.” They had accomplished this by organizing many campus events over the month including many featured speakers, a Canes Night Live takeover, cookouts, as well as community service.
One opportunity that new students have is joining the Freshman Leadership Academy within UBS. Howard described this group as “twelve freshman students [who] are chosen to learn the operational framework of the university from a student organization perspective” as well as making “countless connections and relationships with current staff leaders, faculty and staff.” With this valuable experience in their first year, they will be able to go on and take future leadership roles with confidence.
UBS also has a respective alumni society called the UM Black Alumni Society that many UBS members go on to participate in after graduation.
Troy Bell, a UM alum with many accolades to his name- including becoming the first African American elected to student body president and being responsible for the university’s first tuition decrease- worked hard to receive numerous degrees: mechanical engineering, applied physics, economics, sociology and finance. What really made his time at UM spectacular was his involvement as president for two terms in UBS.
Bell described the organization as “connecting [him] to something greater than [himself].” He didn’t plan on staying at the university past his freshman year, but when he got connected to UBS, his plans changed. Bell ran for president on the platform of “working towards creating an environment on campus where more students had an opportunity to interact with and engage with students of color and have an opportunity to experience black American culture.”
He accomplished that mission by tripling the UBS annual organizational budget, bringing Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist, to campus, navigating the reorganization of the Federation of Black Greek Letter Organizations and leading UBS to partner with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to end discriminatory hiring practices on Miami Beach.
This article was written and reported by Isabelle Sterba.