Reflections on BSAI

Author name
Oyeyemi Kolawole, Class of 2019

The Black Student Alliance Invitational (BSAI) is a four-day event on campus for prospective students that identify as Black. The weekend is filled with exciting events that enable the prospective students to experience many facets of the college experience. I was lucky enough to attend this event last March. Now that I work at the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the center that sponsors the event, as well as am a co-chair of one of the planning committees, I cherish my memories of BSAI even more.

My first day at BSAI, I arrived at Duke and got to meet my host, whom I instantly had a connection with. I also met a girl who is now my best friend at Duke. The rest of the day evolved into a night of bowling, and the rest of the weekend turned into a time I’ll never forget.

My BSAI experience came just days after an African American student had been harassed by a racist chant performed by a fraternity on campus. The community’s willingness to discuss the incident, and not shy away from it, was inspiring. The discussion of racial issues was something new to me, which I appreciated and was comforted by. 

I am from a predominately white community where others recognizing my Blackness was almost unheard of. The best I got was a "Black History Month" prayer by our school’s resident nun. It wasn’t until I came to BSAI that I realized that there are people that actually look like me, think like me, and live the struggle like me. Finding that comfort solidified my decision to attend Duke. 

I truly believe that without the opportunity to attend BSAI many students would not have the ability to experience what it is like to be on Duke's campus, and possibly not end up choosing to enroll at Duke. Allowing students to spend the weekend here greatly influences their decision to enroll at Duke. Being a top ten university, the majority of students that apply, and are accepted to Duke, also apply, and are accepted, to other top schools. The biggest deciding factor, in my opinion, in attending any institution, is the experience that one has on campus. I believe that the experience that one has at BSAI separates Duke from the rest. 

I can never be anything less than grateful for the experience that BSAI provided me. It allowed me to establish a foundation on this campus. This foundation has flourished into a job as an Abele Ambassador at the Marylou Williams Center, and an active member of the black community on campus.