Community, Features

The Block: A ‘safe’ space for Black students at BU

The Block isn’t an official Boston University club, union or organization. There is no president, and there is no official member status.

The Block, Black student group at BU
Boston University School of Questrom students in a photoshoot by The Block. The Block is a group that hosts events and does photoshoots geared toward people of color on BU campus. Freshmen Leah McFarlane and Alana Hay also work together to capture pictures and videos of Black students in different majors. COURTESY OF LEAH MCFARLANE

“The Block is what we call the 4% of Black people in BU,” Jada Daley, a freshman in the Questrom School of Business who is involved with The Block, said.

The Block started in December 2021 by Leah McFarlane, a freshman in the College of Communication, posting pictures on Instagram of events geared toward people of color on BU’s campus and then transitioned to photoshoots of Black students in different majors.

“We called it The Block because it is your home away from home,” Daley wrote. “It signifies that feeling you get when you walk down your neighborhood block. You know the one where all your friends lived, the block parties were held there, it’s a sense of community.”

Alana Hay, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said The Block gives Black students at BU a form of representation.

“We don’t really get that at a [Primarily White Institution],” Hay said. “So we decided to make it for ourselves.”

Daley said the group is “diversified in every different aspect” being composed of everyone from student-athletes to double-majors. She said The Block just wants “everyone to feel welcome.”

“No one is excluded because everyone goes through the same thing or has gone through the same thing we have so that makes us family,” Daley said. “Those are my sisters. Those are my brothers.”

Most recently, McFarlane and Hay have worked together to capture group pictures and videos of students by major. Hay said she wanted to do this photoshoot to “show people how I see Black people.”

“We’re not the same, we come in many dimensions and many forms of beauty and we bring different things to the table,” Hay said. “So whenever I take pictures, I get a warm feeling like, this is so beautiful.”

Block activities have included PowerPoint Night, pajama parties, Nerf gun war and a pot-luck.

McFarlane said a minimum of 20 people come to each event. Their best turnout was a movie night in February where roughly 40 people attended.

“We didn’t even watch the movie,” McFarlane said. “We talked the entire time just making friends.”

Kinsley Grant, a freshman in CAS, said the movie night was his first introduction to The Block and his current friends.

“I can’t imagine my time without [them],” Grant said. “I spend every day with these people, and The Block is the reason why I met them.”

The Block fosters a space of “strong communication” and support, Grant said.

“When you have people that you can rely on, that you can talk to about your everyday problems, or just anything under the sun, it’s just nice having the option to talk when you need it,” Grant said.

Daley said applying and incoming students have messaged The Block on Instagram and commented on TikTok posts saying they feel “more comfortable” about coming to BU after seeing The Block’s page.

Daley highlighted that there’s “way more” coming in the future. The Block is doing a photo yearbook, taking headshots to see how much students will change over four years, and looks to create YouTube videos.

“It’s only the first year and I keep thinking about all the things we’re going to be doing in the next three years,” Daley said. “It just makes me more excited to come back to school.”

McFarlane emphasized that The Block is a “home away from home.”

“It’s like this safe and happy place,” McFarlane said. “You know, it’s your resting spot for you to regain your power and go back out there and take over the world.”

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