The Black Student Athlete Alliance Organization (BSAA) was founded by redshirt senior track and field athlete Michelle Atherley. BSAA’s goal is to create a strong unified community at the University of Miami that supports and empowers black student-athletes. The organization looks to challenge leaders of the university to support black student-athletes outside of sports and help connect black athletes with more on-campus resources UM has to offer.
Atherley, the president of the organization, said that after seeing what other black students were doing at their schools, she realized she could make a change at UM too.
“I noticed that as I was connecting with other athletes around the nation given the circumstances of this summer and basically things that have been happening over the past few years, I came to notice there isn’t really a space for black student-athletes here at the U, outside of our sports,” Atherley said. “I was really influenced by black student-athlete associations and organizations at USC (University of Southern California) and Duke. That’s where I connected with those individuals, particularly to find out what they did to start the organizations and how effective it was and what I can I do to bring this to the U.”
Atherley then began reaching out to teammates, other student-athletes, administration, and some people in the athletic department to see if this were something they would be interested in too. After months of planning, BSAA became an official organization on campus at the beginning of this semester.
Redshirt sophomore Taylor Burrell, an outside hitter on the volleyball team, is on the BSAA executive board as the Social Media/Communications chair. Burrell said she reached out to Atherley after hearing about the idea.
“I really believed in the message she wanted to put out,” Burrell said when asked what made her want to join BSAA. “Just having some sort of space for black athletes to talk and just vibe.”
BSAA isn’t just exclusive to black students though. Anyone who wants to support or learn more about the black community as a collective is also welcomed to join. Atherley said the organization is just looking to build a strong community at UM.
“We offer just that: community,” Atherley said. “That’s what I’m really trying to build. A community, and a bridge to other black organizations on campus so we have more resources and are aware of things that are offered for black students at the U.”
Meetings alternate between Mondays and Fridays so student-athletes can adjust according to their schedules and are held bi-weekly via Zoom due to COVID-19.
“If you want to be a part of this, if you want to feel like you have a community, if you want to feel like you have someone to talk to or vent to or anything then just come to our meeting,” Burrell said.
The word on BSAA has already spread on campus as other UM athletes have already joined. Other members on BSAA’s executive board include jumper Isaiah Holmes as the community engagement chair, sprinter Krystalann Bechard as underclassman facilitator, sprinter Kayla Johnson as the social justice informant and cheerleader Michael Darden as treasurer. Creative chair is a position currently open for those who are interested. The organization hopes it will continue to grow over time as BSAA establishes itself on campus.
“I think that the more the word will spread the more people will be open and willing to give up their time to join,” Atherley said “I definitely want to see it be like a regular thing, a thing where like black student-athletes connect. I want it to be an invitation for freshmen to come and introduce themselves to other black student-athletes.”
BSAA will also look to connect with other black student-athlete organizations from universities around the nation in hopes to create an even bigger community for black student-athletes.
“I do plan on doing a combo meeting,” Atherley said. “So just invite other student-athletes from other institutions to this particular meeting. That would be led by our chief diversity officer of student-athlete departments.”
Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to attend a meeting or contact them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. BSAA can also be found on social media @umiamibsaa on Instagram.
Featured Image provided by University of Miami Black Student Athlete Alliance.