BLA to be a safe place for black women

After+Aliyah+McCary%2C+a+junior+at+the+University+of+North+Alabama%2C+saw+the+lack+of+representation+of+black+women+on+campus%2C+she+decided+to+put+together+an+organization+called+Black+Lioness+Alliance+%28BLA%29.+She+saw+that+black+women+needed+to+be+protected.

Anay Rojra

After Aliyah McCary, a junior at the University of North Alabama, saw the lack of representation of black women on campus, she decided to put together an organization called Black Lioness Alliance (BLA). She saw that black women needed to be protected.

Lavette Williams, Editor-In-Chief

Malcolm X gave a speech in Los Angeles, California on May 22, 1962. It was here that he stated, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

Aliyah McCary, a junior at the University of North Alabama, kept this in mind when putting together her new Recognized Student Organization (RSO) Black Lioness Alliance (BLA).

“I know that with the death of Breonna Taylor, [the death of many other African American women], and the incident with Meg Thee Stallion, I see that black women are under attack,” McCary said. “If I’m feeling this way, I know others do too and [they] need somewhere they can go to, they need a safe space.”

McCary said that these women could have been any black woman on campus, could have been her. Like Breonna Taylor, she could be killed in her own home. Like Meg Thee Stallion, she could have been shot.

“No one deserves that,” McCary said.

She wants to let women who join this RSO to know that they are respected, protected and heeded. This is one of the primary focuses of the organization, to uplift each other. To do this, BLA plans on centering their conversations on black women’s mental state, health, relationships, and safety.

“[Black Lioness Alliance] is welcome to all,” McCary said. “It is not exclusive to anyone. Anyone can come, but know that the main purpose [of this organization] is [to serve as a] safe place for black women. We’d love for other people to come so they can [understand] what we go through [in order] to refrain from becoming ignorant.”

McCary said that she would love to have other races come so they can talk about our experiences, what black women go through, and their races’ impact on them.

The invitation does not stop there. Even UNA faculty has been encouraged to join BLA.

“I have emailed faculty on  campus because I feel like they are black women too, they shouldn’t be left out,” McCary said. “It would also be good to have them there as a mentor so that students can get to know them. I wanted [faculty] to know that just because it is a [student organization], you are seen too.”

McCary believes that every university should have an RSO accepting for everyone.

“I wish UNA had [an organization like BLA] when I was a freshman,” McCary said. “I feel like whether it’s a PWI or a HBCU, there should always be [organizations like this]. Representation matters.”

Black Lioness Alliance did not just conjure up out of thin air. Like other RSOs, it took a month-long process in order to get the organization approved.

“We didn’t just go up [to Student Engagement] and say, ‘Hey, we want to start a group,’” McCary said. “It was [that] not easy.”

Proposals for new student organizations are accepted year round, but reviewed between Sept. 1 -15 for fall annual registration and reviewed between January 15 – 31 for spring annual registration, according to una.edu. A student must schedule a consultation through the Student Engagement Center, where they can obtain a copy of the RSO handbook and the Starting a New Student Organization packet.

After submitting their proposal, they can request to schedule small interest meeting spaces up to 3 times on-campus by submitting the GUC Request form to the Student Engagement desk.

Once their submissions are reviewed, the chartering member will be notified of any necessary revisions to the governing documents or approval to proceed with the Annual Registration Process.  The student will have 2 weeks to begin the annual registration process after notification.

McCary said that she we had to go to training and that she had to take a canvas course, completing several quizzes and test.

“On top of this, I had to find officers,” McCary said. “I had to find black women [on campus] who were willing to have leadership roles. I knew that I couldn’t do it by myself.”

In her search for officers, McCary successfully found students who were equally as dedicated to the task of elevating black women as she was.

“I’m glad that I met amazing women willing to help,” McCary said. “[My BLA officers] are the backbone of the club. When the group was starting, I was very busy with a lot of things and when I couldn’t make it [to a meeting] they went for me. They play their part. Without them, the club would not be here.”

McCary felt the same way on her hunt to find an advisor.

“I feel like [BLA] needed someone positive to be our advisor, to show that black women [are and] can be successful,” McCary said. “Dr. Rachel Winston, who is a doctor, a mom, a wife and a professor, is the perfect example for other black women to look up to.”

Rachel Winston is an Associate Professor of Nursing at UNA and the director of Project OPEN, a nursing program that assists under-represented students. In addition to this, Winston was also selected on Aug. 25 to represent District 6 on the Florence City School Board of Education.

Brittany Cummings, BLA Vice President, said she met Winston the summer of 2018 when she was taking her Presidential Mentors Academy class before coming onto campus.

“I remember [PMA] had [Dr. Winston] and another doctor [speaking to us],” Cummings said. “Both of the professors were really nice, but Dr. Winston just stood out. One girl [in the class] had some problems with her legs and she literally carried her from the nursing building back to the dorms. She’s so kind, so encouraging and so inspirational. She looks at us like we’re young adults.”

Cummings said BLA is supposed to be more of a sisterhood. 

“When [I] say sisterhood, people automatically think of the sororities,” Cummings said. “Not Everyone has the money or time commitment to do that. [With BLA] we are able to talk to each other, to [check in] on each other. It’s good to have this. I hope that we can fall back on that sisterhood and be a foundation for some many minorities on campus.”

While it is BLA’s primary goal to be a home for black women  on campus, their  long-term goal is to  see the organization  go on for as long as Black Student Alliance (BSA). 

“We want to be able to [graduate from UNA], to return to campus and to see BLA still running. We really want to instill in [our members] that this is something that we want to keep on going. We need this at UNA.”

BLA   held their first meet and greet on Oct. 8 and since then has gained 10 new members and 160 followers on Instagram. 

Still, she understands that her organization is new and that gaining members and support may take some time.

 “As of now, 10 members is fine,” McCary said. “My hope is to bring people together, to bring women together. My hope is to bring diversity. I know when I’m looking for a college; I want to see what kind of clubs they have. So, if I can help one black woman feel like she’s [included] then I’ve accomplished my goal.

Students interested in joining can email McCary at [email protected]