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4 Black, female student body presidents join forces, write letter to the Big Ten universities addressing racism

July 1, 2020
<p>Photo courtesy of Abii-Tah Bih.</p>

Photo courtesy of Abii-Tah Bih.

 ASMSU President Abii-Tah Bih joined three other Black, female undergraduate student body presidents from the Big Ten schools and wrote a combined letter to their university administrations and all the Big Ten institutions regarding the racial incidents spiking in the Midwest. 

MSU's Bih joined Jael Karendi, Roaya Higazi and Assata Gilmore respectively representing the University of Minnesota, Ohio State University and Purdue University. 

“I think it's about time that Black voices become a priority to our administration,” Bih said. “We want to dismantle this atmosphere (and) institutional racism that exists within our campus, unfortunately.”

The letter said that since these four, Black women are called to lead their student bodies at a critical moment in history, they are committed to speaking out against injustice and systemic oppression that students of color have faced at the mentioned institutions. 

Bih said while her being a female, Black international student from Africa and chosen to lead ASMSU is historic, it is also a historical time students are living in, seeing all the change and transformation that is brought after murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

"I think it's important to team up just because none of us can really achieve much alone," Bih said. "A lot of universities had to come together just to amplify our voices. ... And when four Big Ten schools are mentioning the same thing in the same statement, then that shows how much power there is and how much access that gives just to our constituents."

According to the letter, Black students make 7.9% of the student population at MSU. For Bih, this is her way of showing that she completely supports the Black community, not only because she is a Black woman, but because she has been given the opportunity to have this platform where she can communicate and reach people.

"I have this voice that so many Black people on this campus do not have,” Bih said. “So, it's important that I'm not shying away from using it to uplift everybody else who does not have the same platform that I have."

The letter also mentions how the racist incidents on the campus during the fall of 2019 affected the Spartan community.

"As of the hour of this address, thousands of Spartan hearts are hurting at Michigan State University," according to the letter. "We are not bleeding green but black."

The letter further urges the Big Ten Conference to commit to uplifting Black voices, to creating environments that promote sustainable advocacy and encourage those around them to hold the institutions accountable for their actions.

“I don't want anybody to feel that they are (dispensable) to MSU,” Bih said. “If you are an MSU student, the entirety of MSU should be able to bend when you're in trouble. The entirety of MSU should be able to pause and listen to your one problem and work toward solving that.”

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