Meet the Board: Black Student Union board members share their experiences and goals
November 1, 2021
A safe place for Black students, the Black Student Union at Sacramento State is described as a space free of judgement by Leila Cormier, the club’s member liaison. There, you can have your hair as big as you want, talk as loud as you want or simply be reserved, says Cormier.
These are the reasons why she loves BSU.
BSU reactivated its club in 2015, and six years later the club is going strong with seven board members and a total of 125 student members according to Cormier. Black Student Union board members include a president, vice president, co-heads of public relations, activities coordinator, members liaison, and treasurer. The board includes students Kameya Turner, Kamiya Turner, Leila Cormier, Chiemena Agbakwuru, Kayla Anderson, Ken Wilson and Nilaja Robertson-Thompson.
Kameya Turner — President
Kameya Turner, Black Student Union president and family studies in human development major, said she wants to be somebody that people remember as a positive and growing leader. She said she is always trying to do as much as she can to help her people elevate. Photo courtesy of BSU.
Kameya Turner, 20, serves as the BSU president and is also a third-year family studies in human development major. Turner said she chose to major in family studies in human development because she is interested in working with children.
Kameya Turner has been a part of BSU for three years. First introduced by board members at the time, she says the club has made her feel more comfortable at Sac State.
As president, Kameya Turner’s role is to be the liaison to administration at Sac State, the board, members of BSU and other Black organizations on campus. Kameya Turner said she supports students by making connections with them.
As a result, any time students come to a BSU general meeting, she and other board members make a habit of going around and introducing themselves.
Turner said although she is a first generation college student, it was just natural for her to go to college to pursue a career in life.
But it was also because of her mom’s influence that knowledge is “truly wealth.”
“Even if I didn’t come in with a plan, my overall theme is that wisdom is wealth, knowledge is wealth,” Kameya Turner said. “Anything I can do to attain wisdom, knowledge, I will do.”
Kameya Turner said the person who inspires her the most is herself, and her overall goal and aspiration is to be a leader in her community.
“When I die, I want people to remember me as somebody that kept going no matter what,” Kameya Turner said. “And, to me, that looks like right now getting to know the people around me, making sure that we create this community that we desperately need in America, period.”
Kamiya Turner — Vice President
Kamiya Turner, 20, the vice president, is also a third-year family studies in human development major. The twin of Kameya Turner, Kamiya Turner wanted to first be a nurse but decided to switch majors to work with Black families.
“I want to help the whole family in the Black community because I feel that our communication styles, the parenting that we receive should all just be repaired,” she said. “We struggle with the family unit in Black families. That’s been an issue for a very long time.”
Kamiya Turner’s role as vice president is supporting the board with wellness check-ins, making sure that everyone's good and helping the president run meetings.
She also keeps up to date with campus policies and makes sure relationships are strong with other Black organizations on and off of campus.
“I help people make decisions but also make sure that the board is tapped in because we're all students at the end of the day,” Kamiya Turner said. ”Making sure that [students] know that they are highlighted and spotlighted in BSU, that’s helping create the safe and positive space.”
Kamiya Turner, Black Student Union vice president and family studies in human development major, said her goal is to be the person that steps in and offers resources for families to bond and create better habits. She said the ultimate goal for her is just helping the Black community in some type of way. Photo courtesy of BSU.
Kamiya Turner, is also a first-generation student. For her she said she pursued higher education for the simple fact that she wanted to do better and experience things nobody in her family has.
Intrigued by the idea of college, she remembers as a child accompanying her mother to community college classes at Laney College in Oakland. Kamiya said her and her sisters would go with their mom to her ethnic studies course focused on African studies and African dance.
Turner said her ultimate goal is to help the Black community in some type of way. That starts with BSU and pursuing her major, she said.
Leila Cormier, 18, is the member liaison of Black Student Union. Cormier says she aspires to be involved in politics and improve the judicial system. Photo courtesy of BSU.
Leila Cormier — Member Liaison
Cormier, 18, is BSU’s member liaison and a sophomore political science major. Cormier said she chose political science because she is passionate about helping the Black community and giving back. Cormier wants to go into a career to improve the judicial system, specifically the people on death row.
Cormier previously attended her first BSU at San Marcos High School her freshman year. Wanting to continue the tradition, she joined BSU at Sac State.
“I’ve always been really rooted in my culture,” Cormier said. “I just wanted to continue doing that, and I thought being Black at a [predominantly white institution] that’d be a perfect place to start.”
Cormier said her role as the member liaison is to ensure the board hears every member’s voice and meets its needs.
She also keeps track of students who come to in-person meetings and membership forums.
Cormier decided to go to college because she said she knew she could not get what she wanted in life without an education.
Like the Turner twins, her mom is the one who inspires her the most because she always pushed her to be the best version of herself. Cormier says her mother’s influence is the reason why she is studying to be a civil rights attorney.
“She is the reason why I started to become involved in politics,” Cormier said. “She shows me what’s wrong with our community and where it needed fixing.”
Cormier said her goal is to break the stereotype that Black women always have to be strong, and she aspires to be the best version of herself and make changes in the world where she can.
Chiemena Agbakwuru — Co-head Public Relations
Agbakwuru, 19, is co-head of public relations and a second-year health science major. Agbakwuru says she hopes to get into a nursing program at Sac State. She also said she always wanted to be a pediatric nurse and the only way to do that is health science and then transfer to nursing.
Agbakwuru said she had been a member of BSU since this year. She said she was looking to be a part of a Black organization on campus, then she found BSU and went to their first event, “Welcome Black.”
“I joined because I just wanted to have a connection with African Americans and people who look like me,” Agakwuru said. “[To] just have that form of family bond that you can’t really just get with any organization on campus, so I sought out BSU.”
According to Agbakwuru, one of the things she loves about BSU is how everyone is receptive.
Chiemena Agbakwuru, BSU co-head of public relations and health science major. With BSU Agbakwuru hopes to make connections with other Black students. Photo courtesy of BSU.
“Whenever we have our meetings, the students that come in are always open-minded and willing to participate in the activities, which makes everything run smoother,” Agbakwuru said. “It helps everything roll smoothly and helps us form a connection with everybody there.”
For Agbakwuru she said college was a stepping stone to the future. She’s working towards a degree in health science to not just be successful but to make her family and herself proud.
Kayla Anderson — Co-head Public Relations
Kayla Anderson is a film major and Black Student Union’s co-head of Public Relations. She said she hopes to allow a welcoming space for Black students. Photo courtesy of BSU.
Anderson, 20, is a third-year film major with a concentration in digital film and video production. Originally from Los Angeles, Anderson joined BSU to meet new people.
“When I first got to Sac, I absolutely knew no one other than my friend,” Anderson said. “When I did finally learn about BSU and its community and family, it was refreshing to be in an area and a place where I’m identifying with everyone in the room.”
She says Black students are a minority at Sac State, which can be isolating. But for her BSU allows a space for her to be herself.
“When you’re actually in the classrooms you are usually one of three [Black students],” Anderson said. “So it’s good to go to a place with all your people. Just to be yourself and just be Black.”
Anderson’s role is co-head public relations, where she is responsible for maintaining relationships with Sac State’s Black campus community and beyond in the Sacramento area through social media.
Some of Anderson’s goals are networking, making social media accessible as ever and putting BSU in “as many places as possible.”
Combining her PR skills and passion, she hopes to achieve that goal.
“The possibilities are endless for people to reach us and get the resources they need,” she said.
Ken Wilson — Activities Coordinator
Wilson is a 20-year-old interior architect major. Currently, he serves as BSU’s activities coordinator. When Wilson was a freshman, he says he was drawn toward BSU for it’s message of being a family and creating a supporting environment for all students.
“[Student board members] really emphasized the whole concept of being a family and being that support system for not only just freshman but any students, with any problems we might have,” Wilson said, ”I wanted to join the board to be that same guiding light for other students, especially after COVID. Things are a lot harder in terms of being social and staying on top of your work.”
Wilson said BSU helped him make the transition from his hometown of Victorville in San Bernardino County to Sac State better. At the time Wilson said he faced obstacles with his mental health.
Ken Wilson is an interior architect major and BSU’s activities coordinator. He hopes to create pathways to collaboration with other cultural clubs. Photo courtesy of BSU.
“Living so far away I didn't really know anyone at the school,” Wilson said. “There was [the BSU] Instagram account for other Black students at Sac State, and we kind of started that before school even started freshman year.”
As activities coordinator his main goal is to collaborate with other cultural clubs on campus and host events like The “Afrikan Black Coalition.”
Next semester Sac State’s BSU will host an event where BSUs from all over California will be in attendance. While BSU offers resources to Black students on campus, Wilson says anyone can join regardless of race or gender.
“You don’t have to be African American to join,” Wilson said. “We don’t only talk about Black issues. We talk about social things. We talk about sexual health. We try to tie in Blackness into stuff like that, but you don’t have to be Black to join.”
Nilaja Robertson-Thompson, communications major and Black Student Union’s treasurer, said she wants to help BSU students have a good college experience. Through her work with BSU, she said she hopes to make BSU meetings fun for students. Photo courtesy of BSU.
Nilaja Robertson-Thompson — Treasurer
Robertson-Thompson, 20, is BSU’s Treasurer and a third-year communications major. Originally from Jamaica, Robertson-Thompson lived in the Bay Area the majority of her life.
Robertson-Thompson’s journey with BSU started with the club’s “Welcome Black” in 2019. Ever since then, she said she never looked back.
“I just enjoyed myself so much, I became a member very quickly,” Robertson-Thompson said. “I love BSU. I love everything that has to do with Black people. That organization was all over the place. They really helped me have a good first year experience.”
One thing Robertson-Thompson says she loves about being a board member is planning and making events happen.
“I’m big on really wanting people to have a good experience, especially the people [where] this is their first year or this is their second year,” she said. “They really didn’t get a first year because of COVID. I love seeing their feedback and how much they enjoy [BSU].”
Because of the campus closing in March 2020 due to COVID-19, Robertson-Thompson is inspired to implement her vision for the year’s BSU cohort. Even though students lost a year of in person instruction and “half of their college experience,” she said she wants to make the extra effort to make BSU meetings fun.
“I want people to have fun and see how fun BSU is,” Robertson-Thompson said. “I feel like we are starting to plan things that people are really going to like. They already love the general meetings, that’s why people keep coming and coming back.”