*intro music*

Shauna: Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode of Magnolia on Mic. My name is Shauna.

Angela: And I’m Angela.

Shauna: And today we have a very special episode for you guys. We have our first ever guest on the podcast! So we are going to let our guest introduce themselves.

Sophia: Hi! My name is Sophia Johnson. I am a sophomore at NYU Shanghai. And I am also the BSA president. So hi! Nice to meet our listeners.

Angela: Hello. It is super nice to have you. We had to reschedule a bunch of times because of the situation, lockdown. 

Shauna: But I guess we will just dive right into the interview. So as Sophia just mentioned she is the current president of BSA. So our first question for Sophia is why is a club like BSA important at NYU Shanghai.

Sophia: That’s a great question. BSA is important at a school like NYU Shanghai because it’s a community for black students to come together and form some familiarity within a school that may not have a lot of people that look like them. And college can already be very isolating and lonely so having the BSA, especially when you’re a freshman, is a really easy way to just connect with people who understand you from the jump so it makes that making friends alot easier. And then it’s also important because I feel like identity based groups like the BSA help more or less celebrate the schools differences and diversity without making it exclusive.

Angela: Mhm and I think you mentioned it helps when you first get here as a freshman it helps you to make friends so before we get really far into it do you want to share when does BSA meet? How can you join it etc etc. In case anyone’s listening.

Sophia: BSA has not been meeting regularly because it has been hectic. We went through a little bit of a lockdown, we had midterms for the past two weeks, but now that things have settled out BSA will meet on- it hasn’t been officially decided- but I’m thinking Wednesdays and Thursdays after school. And we will meet for like an hour, ninety minutes and we just come together to discuss what we have been thinking, what we’ve been feeling, what we’ve been going through. And then some events that you know we want to plan for ourselves and to get into the school. So you know if you identify as black or if you just want to come support the BSA, come to one of our meetings. We meet in the calm corner so I hope to see you. 

Shauna: And if people are interested in reaching out how can they get in contact or how can they find out more information?

Sophia: Well you can add me on Instagram. My Instagram is Sophiajohnson100. And then From there I can add you on WeChat and then we have a BSA organization WeChat and you know we just go from there.

Angela: Yeah, and we’ll put that in the episode description so you can go right ahead and contact them. So you also mentioned at a school like NYU Shanghai where there might not be a lot of people that look like you, as you said. So another one of our questions was how do you think NYU Shanghai’s 50/50 international Chinese National model affects identity based clubs.

Sophia: I think the 50/50 model is just so amazing at NYU Shanghai. But when you are an international student and you really haven’t, like you come from so far away and you really haven’t found your group of friends yet, I feel like it can sometimes be kind of hard to navigate. Because out of that 50 percent group that you’re in, even fractions of that are gonna be like LGBTQ plus students or black students or brown students Hispanic, Latinx students. And it’s like, where do I fit in? And it wouldn’t be out of the normal for you to be, you know one or maybe five of the people in your year that are like you. So even though it’s great for mixing with some of the National students and getting immersed in the culture a lot quicker and alot easier, it can kind of limit the amount of chances you have to like kind of bond with somebody that like you’re used to sometimes being around and like in a cultural or ethnic kind of sense.

Shauna: Thank you for that. Um so my next question is do you think there’s a specific reason why BSA isn’t an official club? 

Sophia: There is. I used to wonder the same things. Like I first got approached during my freshman year spring semester they were like “join the BSA, not school affiliated.” And I was like *gasps* does the school not allow the BSA? I almost went off. But I found out this year that the school does not allow BSA to be an official school organization or club because China apparently does not allow race based clubs and organizations. And I was like “ok” I’m not about to argue with China. That makes sense. And it was something I was familiar with because not even my highschool allowed a BSA. That was more of a southern something else kind of thing but it was something I was familiar with. And I still thought even if we’re not allowed to be an official organization we can still unofficially officially make this group for ourselves and then also just be a part of the school. 

Angela: Wow, I did not know that about China. Uh and so like with being an unofficial club but still wanting to build that kind of community and host events, how do you think not being an official club has affected your ability to run the club and promote your things?

Sophia: I think it’s only affected it in a way where people don’t usually know about it as easily or as quickly. Like if you were to go on the site you would not see a BSA. It’s something that even people who apply to the school, I remember when I was looking and I didn’t see one. And it’s also kind of hard once you come and we are official unofficially, to having students to remember the BSA or get involved in it. But other than that it’s oh and setting out some events and getting them approved by the school because if you’re not an official club you might have to jump over some hoops and barriers for that. I feel like other than that it hasn’t been that troubling to run the BSA. 

Angela: ok that’s good. 

Shauna: You, you mentioned not seeing the BSA on the school website when you’re applying. Do you think that could affect some people’s decision on whether or not to come here? 

Sophia: Yeah, Yes it definitely can. sorry I forget you can’t see me nodding. It definitely does. I mean, for me personally when I was applying for colleges, having a BSA was so important to me because I just knew that that would be my community. Like even if those weren’t my friend group it would be somewhere that I could feel safe and familiar and at home with. And the fact that you didn’t usually see one for NYU it was a big marker to me like mm this might not be my top choice. But then coming here and finding out there was a BSA it was such a great surprise and joy. That I was like oh this is something I can enjoy and look forward to that I was like, you know, I don’t know. Earned is not the right word but it was like granted to me. I was so happy to see that and that it is a part of the school so yeah.

Angela: Yeah I totally think that in highschool I feel like a lot of the advice towards kids applying is like look at the organizations of the college, look at the clubs and see if you can imagine yourself there. I remember looking at the website and I saw queer and ally society and then I clicked into it and it was like “broken link” and I was like wow. But yeah like it’s good that we came here and found that it did exist and that we’re developing it.

Sophia: Yeah

Shauna: I guess we will move on to the next question. Um so despite building community, like despite identity based clubs being formed for building community, couldn’t a club – and this doesn’t just go for BSA but any identity based club- encourage categorization or division among students?

Sophia: Yes, it easily could. I mean any kind of club or  group or organization that is usually meant for a certain person or type, group of people, it can make people feel excluded. Like I don’t belong here or I’m not welcome. Even if I have an interest in it I’m not allowed to be somewhere where I could be or I could make a lot of great – what’s the word – impacts in. But I feel like everything is gonna have things like that. I mean even college itself can make people feel like that. But I think with you focused on the good aspects of it. Like for example BSA is not just about oh it’s only for black people, people who identify as black, it’s also for people, it supposed to be a safe space and a home and a safe environment for people and you build up eachother and share our experiences but we also want to give it back to the school. So like the safeness, the lovely environment , the love, the encouragement, the upbringing, empowerment, that is what the BSA represents and stands for and it’s also what the BSA wants to include the school in. So I feel like identity based groups like that are just groups where part, not everybody would necessarily be part of. 

Shauna: like not everybody would identify as that thing.

Sophia: right

Angela: yeah

Sophia: I feel like a lot of the time, The positive aspects of it and what they offer to a community are the more important part to the whole community to be a part of that. Because like they will be a part of the part that had it. I’m sorry I feel like I’ve said “a part” too many times. 

Shauna: it’s ok

Angela: I mean I see what you’re saying, like, even if it’s for example like BSA for people with a specific identity however the kinds of feelings or the community build from that, that contributes to the school as a whole. Is that what you’re trying to say?

Sophia: yeah, yeah

Angela: And speaking of your goals for the club that leads perfectly into our last question which is as BSA president what goals do you have to accomplish with the club? And also any final thoughts that you want to share about you know your experience organizing it.

Sophia: Uh so far just the small stuff. I want to start planning events like one to two, maybe even three events a month especially since I’ll be leaving for my study away. So I want the BSA, my goal for the BSA is to establish and ongoing president and cabinet of people who take over and do stuff so that when somebody graduates from being president or leaves it’s not just like “oh that was a really cool year the BSA threw that one event.” I want it to be a staple and a foundation of  the NYU Shanghai community. The way our sister group BSA in New York are kind of becoming there too. And I also just hope as BSA president that I am able to make this environment safe and make it an environment that people look forward to for the other students at this school. And I also want to be like I’m not just reaching out to the other black students. I want it to be like, yes BSA might be the black student association, but it’s a part of the NYU Shanghai community and everybody can come to enjoy. It’s like how LGBTQ+ has the allyship. It’s like BSA allyship. 

*pause* any other questions?

Shauna: No, you answered all of our questions. I guess, do you have any other final thoughts you would like to share with our listeners?

Angela: *towards Shauna* or like what has your experience been as a member?

Shauna: Oh, um well when I first came in the spring semester, like Sophia, I did go to one of the BSE events, or BSA events. And I actually really enjoyed it. We made quilts so they gave everyone a piece of fabric and it was like you could come between this date and this date. So I think it was like a week of painting. So you come in and they give you a piece of fabric and you could paint whatever you wanted on it. And then while people were painting there were other people who were sewing fabric along the sides of the quilt, like your piece. Because each piece of fabric had tape around it so you’d take the tape off and sew like an outline along the fabric. And then they sewed them all together and made this really big quilt. But unfortunately the week of them showcasing the quilt we went into the big Shanghai lockdown like that three month lockdown. So I never got to see it but I actually really enjoyed that event. It was very relaxing cause you just went and we painted we talked. And it didn’t feel like necessarily just a BSA event. It was like anybody could come but the actual activity we were doing was related to black culture. So I actually really liked that. I really enjoyed that. And this semester I know things are just getting started but I hope that, kind of like Sophia was saying, that more people can get involved and it doesn’t have to be like, it could be more about informing people and also help building community in the school. I think that’ll be really nice.

All: *cheers*

Shauna: So I guess that is the end of our episode. I hope you guys enjoyed learning a bit more about BSA and what kind of communities are offered at NYU Shanghai. And I guess thank you for listening.

Angela: Yeah, thank you for listening. And thank you Sophia for being our guest.

Sophia: Yeah! Thank you for having me. I loved it.

Angela: And we’ll see you next time. Bye!

Shauna: Bye!

Sophia: Bye!

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