Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Dominique Martinez-Powell |
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Salukis in Springfield gives Black students a chance to watch history happen

Jasmine Thompson
Members of the Black Affairs Council (BAC) stand in front of an Abraham Lincoln statue Feb. 21, 2024 at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

Members of the Black Affairs Council (BAC) and Undergrad Student Government (USG) went to their sixth annual Salukis in Springfield conference to watch Governor J. B. Pritzker deliver his State of the State Address to Illinois residents on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

President and coordinator of administrative affairs of the B.A.C., Sarah Alli-Brown was the main organizer of the event.

“Essentially, the administrators before me that had B.A.C., wanted a way for Black students to get into legislation and a way for black students to get more involved when it came to the government and rules,” Alli-Brown said. “So what better way to do that than to co-sponsor this event with student government. So they’ve been on this trip with us for all six times that we’ve been on the trip,” 


The students watched as the governor talked about where the money will be allocated for the rest of this year for Illinois. Alli-Brown said it is important to know where funding will go, especially when it comes down to higher education and how to fund schools like Southern Illinois University.

“And after that, we do lobbying with a whole bunch of senators. So we go to the Republican side and after, we go to the Democratic side. In Springfield, there’s a Black caucus and there’s a Black caucus soiree. Essentially in Illinois, all of the senators that are part of the Black caucus, they are a part of the Black legislators,” Alli-Brown said.

She said it is a big deal for them because they’re sitting in these positions when years ago they couldn’t even have been allowed to hold them. They had to fight for that right.. 

How Alli-Brown got this event going was through an SIU main contact, John Charles, the director of Government and Public Affairs for the SIU system.

“I work here in Springfield and represent the university over at the Capitol. I work with state legislators and people in the governor’s office and the other state offices as well as their staff on all things related to our campuses,” Charles said.

Charles was the main escort for both Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Edwardsville when walking throughout the state capital. Both campuses showed up in support. SIUE called it Cougars at the Capital in representation of their mascot. 

Mackenzie Richard, the student body president at SIUE, said “This is my first time being student body president, but I served as our external affairs officer my junior year, and then a senator at large my first year in student government.” 


She said she is “very excited” to do it.

“Especially talking about our Mental Health Day bill and everything like that. We passed a resolution for that last year, at SIUE. So I’m excited to continue with that,” she said.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s USG president Phillip Hartke agreed.

“Mental Health is such a prominent issue within universities. College can get stressful and exhausting plus there are not that many resources to cope with it and there are not many people know about, so I hope that this bill improves that,” he said. 

Senate BIll 2606 amends the Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act. and provides that the board of trustees of each public college or university adopt a policy that allows for a minimum of two wellness days for students to use per academic term.

According to The Wellness Days Coalition, if passed, Illinois will be the first state in the nation to provide wellness days for university students, which will blaze a trail for mental health nationally and is a priority for Illinois. 

All the students were very excited to be part of such a historical event. 

“I feel like in a sense we’re writing history,” Alli-Brown said. “We’re looking back at history because students will look back and say, ‘Dang, BAC (and USG) took the initiative to go to see the state of the budget address,’ like, that’s history, and then seeing black legislators when years before they didn’t have the option to even run or they weren’t even looked at… just gives us a sense of purpose and a sense of continuing to push to and fight all odds.” 


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