Bring the Black student body together: Black Affairs Council


Sophia Rogers | [email protected]

Students look at their paintings at the Paint & Sip hosted by the Black Affairs Council in the Student Services Building Pavilion at SIU Oct. 20, 2021 in Carbondale, Ill.

The Black Affairs Council (BAC) at Southern Illinois University Carbondale plays an important part in making sure the Black RSOs on campus run as smoothly as possible.

According to its  Facebook page, the organization’s mission is to “address cultural, social, educational, and political concerns of Black Students at SIUC, and within the local community.”

BAC Coordinator Grace Gunn, a third year student, said she found out about BAC her first semester after being invited to The Black Experience event by her Africana Studies teacher Dr. Brione Lockett.


He invited our class to The Black Experience networking social,” Grace Gunn said. “They had food, and let you meet the staff, union Black staff, RSO leaders and community leaders.”

Gunn said she loved BAC when first hearing about it, especially with her family’s ties to the organization through her father, Dwight Gunn.

When first learning about BAC on campus, Grace Gunn said she expected them to be more active.

“I wish that they had had a bigger presence on campus,” she said. “ I had a pretty good impression of them, and I thought it seemed like they were full of intelligent people who were connected to people on campus.”

Grace Gunn wanted to join BAC because she saw a need for Black students to help make the campus better, she said.

“I always feel like it’s important for Black students at a White institution to be a part of the organizations that are made for them to help influence the campus,” Grace Gunn said. “I wanted to be a part of those conversations that affect me as a student at the school.”

BAC is made up of multiple coordinators, comptrollers, public relations people, executive board members and a resource department to help Black RSOs and the Black student body with any problems they have, Grace Gunn said.


She said she is grateful for all the opportunites BAC has given her for her future, she said.

“It has gotten me in rooms that I didn’t think I would ever be in,” Grace Gunn said. “ It’s helped me be a part of making change on campus and it’s helped me build my resume so much in ways that a lot of people don’t get to build their resumes and get certain opportunities that others can’t get.”

SIU Alum and former BAC member, Kevin Winsted was the chief coordinator of BAC from 2004 until 2007, starting at the Black Togetherness Organization, he said. 

Similar to Grace Gunn, Winstead wanted to belong to a Black community in a majority White university.

“Being at a PWI institution in the early 2000s, there was a need for community,” Winstead said. “There were certainly African American students, and they typically clustered within the towers and Allen Hall in my undergraduate, but organized community was something that I was very much seeking.”

Winstead said BAC was affiliated with the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers in the 60s, since a large number of Black students at SIU come from the Chicagoland area.

“You get literal people like Fred Hampton and the Chicago Black Panthers and its whole agenda of mixing people of color, and combining their political power,” Winstead said. “[And it’s] happening at a time where the university was just coming out of housing integration and things of that nature.”

Winstead said the relationship between Black students at SIU and Carbondale Police in the 60s was not a good one.

“Coming out in the 60s were students during the segregation era, students found themselves in a shootout with Carbondale police,” Winstead said. “That was the kind of attention that the Black Affairs Council was founded on.”

Students were creating their own political power, and, back then, it wasn’t about networking, but survival, Winstead said.

He  said he’s  proud of the progress the organization has made,especially with the last several coordinators these past years being women, and seeing more Black women’s organizations created.

“In my era, I had the privilege of witnessing the Black Women’s Task Force get development,” Winstead said. “Its relationship to further scholastic development of Black feminism and Black feminists thought that happened, and I think that’s had a lot of positive impact on the Black Affairs Council and the community.”

Special Advisor of the National Association of Black Journalists at SIU, Eyaan Mahone, has been working with NABJ for more than  six years, and BAC has always been there to help, he said.

“[They help] different RSO fairs, Black RSO fairs, especially more recently this year,” Mahone said. “Just setting up our table having some games and things like that for people who have an interest in the RSOs to come play.”

Mahone said NABJ would work with BAC regularly on events they need publicity for or extra help, he said; and he encouraged Black students who want to join a Black RSO to go to BAC.

“Just go inside the office, and just this let them know that you’re interested in which specific RSO you want to go into,” Mahone said. “Tell them what your plans are as far as your major and after graduation, and I think the BAC would definitely help and guide [students] in the right direction on which RSO to join just to broaden your horizons.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.