The Black Student Union at UK isn't just for minorities—it's for everyone.
"We take pride in everybody," said Anyia Jones, BSU vice president and senior medical laboratory science major. "Yes, we focus on minorities because they are at the lower tier... but at the same day, we're here for unity."
As part of BSU's push for unity, the student organization has been holding a a series of events since Sept. 24, starting with a vigil for Breonna Taylor. The "26 days for Bre" extend beyond Taylor, however. Jones said BSU is giving back to the Lexington community in general, from the homeless to those who have suffered from domestic violence.
Their most recent activity was a donation drive for the Hope Center, held from Monday, Oct. 5 to Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Bowman statue. The drive, open from 6-7 p.m. each night, attracted more students than Parish-Baker, BSU director of activities and junior Kinesiology major, expected.
Parish-Baker said that they received a lot of donations not even 24 hours after BSU posted the details on their Instagram page. While Parish-Baker and Jones weren't there every night, they added that about half a dozen students donated Monday and they were told BSU got a "good number" of participants Tuesday and Wednesday.
"Seeing the participation is actually very motivating and encouraging for us to keep going and showing us that what we're doing is working," Parish-Baker said.
The donations are going to the Hope Center, a Lexington organization that provides food, shelter and clothing to the homeless, as well as job, housing and health assistance to those in need. BSU took their donation list and narrowed it down to items UK students might be able to give, including toiletries, masks, clothing items, office supplies and blankets.
The 26 days have featured various activities, including a virtual event where students were encouraged to share their experiences as a minority through BSU's Instagram story, as well as a voter registration drive and Black history Kahoot! game, Jones said.
BSU is also planning events for the next 15 days, Parish-Baker said. Next week is Organization Week, featuring minority organizations from across campus coming together to lead an activity. On Wednesday, students can contribute to a Breonna-Taylor inspired art piece to be posted in the MLK Center. Later, BSU will host a mental health session and an event with UK's Counseling Center's Black counselors.
Jones and Parish-Baker said that in the interest of unity, all these events are open to everyone, not just minorities.
The unity events are also BSU's way of rehitting their stride. The past several years, Jones said the student organization has gone through "rough patches" of which they are now finding their way out.
"It's not unknown news that the BSU was not as active as it used to be," Jones said. "But now we just want to make sure that people know, BSU is here and yes, we made mistakes, but we're here to be better, and better than ever."
The "26 days for Bre" will end in the same way they began—with a unity walk for Breonna Taylor.
Jones said that these events show that if everyone pitches in, they can work together to make something really beautiful.
"If one person is painting, it's gonna take forever, it's not going to be as unique as different voices, different paintings, different fingers, different strokes," she said. "That's basically how society works."