By Tristan E. M. Leach
BLACK History Month is a time to reflect on both the triumphs and struggles of Black people in America throughout history, and Rider actively participates with a list of events, discussions and meetings all month long. Promoting those events and meetings is Black Men Unified, a club that works to strengthen healthy perceptions of Black men on Rider’s campus.
Black Men Unified is one of four active clubs on campus that works to teach about the Black experience. Like many clubs on campus, Black Men Unified found that they were struggling after returning from the pandemic; however, there was a group of students who were ready to take up the torch and rekindle their fire.
Lorinda Laube, a senior behavioral science major, is the president of Black Men Unified. Laube joined the club last year after seeing the table at Broncapalooza, the club fair at Rider. At the time Justin Thomas, a graduate of Rider, was president and the only full time executive board member. Laube offered her help to Thomas, as she already had experience being on the e-board of Rider’s Haitian Student Association.
Laube became secretary of the club to help get it back on track. Through this, Laube and Thomas became close friends and soon, Laube was asked by Thomas to run for president.
“At first it was because Justin had asked me to [run for president] and I had told him I don’t want this club to die,” said Laube.
However, Laube discovered during winter break that her role had much importance than originally thought. Her perspective on the work she and her e-board does shifted to one of deeper understanding.
“It’s kind of changed for me now. Before it was for my friend, but now having gone through the experiences I have gone through and meeting the people that I meet, I genuinely do think I have a responsibility to make sure I create a space where they [Black men] can be themselves and connect with other Black men on campus,” Laube said.
Throughout history, Black men have had negative stereotypes imposed upon them and are held to impossibly high standards by their communities, their families and society in general. Black Men Unified works to combat the negativity and allows Black men to view themselves in a positive light.
Laube stressed the importance of Black women supporting Black men, but not contributing to the toxic masculinity that Black men are taught to live with.
“I see the way they [Black men] operate and they’re all very strong individuals. The world kind of negates how they feel or kind of shun them showing emotions. I’ve done my part in being toxic and bringing down Black men in terms of my brother. Now understanding how I played a role in the way he is, I want to make sure I’m not that way towards other Black men,” Laube said.
Greg Anthony Jones, is a junior political science major and secretary of Black Men Unified. Jones stressed the importance of creating positive perceptions of Black men and how as a Black man, he is putting in the work.
“I feel as though the negative stereotypes, when it comes to Black men, is more exemplified through how we are perceived when it comes to athletics and our academic ability,” said Jones. “How the Black man or the Black presence on Rider’s campus is not really expressed through our creativity or anything that is relative to us besides being athletic or just being culturally Black.”
Both Jones and Laube stressed the importance of cultivating the Black experience on campus and appreciating the beauty of Black people. This includes finding more members to join Black Men Unified and increasing involvement at the events.
Laube’s current goals for the club is to get more Black men involved and interested in joining Black Men Unified. Laube noted that the club is mostly women and while she sees no problem with the allyship, she hopes more men will take note of the safe space. She hopes that when she steps down later this year, a Black man will be president.
Until that time comes, Black Men Unified will continue to meet and contribute to events happening during Black History Month. The club met for the first time this semester on Feb. 1 and played a spirited game of This or That. Black Men Unified next’s general meeting is Feb. 23 in Bierenbaum Fisher Hall 302, but the club is currently working on some events for Black History Month.
For both Laube and Jones, the themes of Black History Month are present everyday.
“What [Black Men Unified] means to me, is not just the mission of empowering Black men but also me doing my part in the community. If you had told me in high school I’d be president of two clubs I’d be like ‘Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Being friends with all these people and understanding my role as a Black woman in our community in America and the representation that needs to happen, even at Rider,” said Laube.
Jones said, “For me, Black history is everyday. I appreciate the month and the time we have to be more fixated or to celebrate our history, our accolades and what not. I believe that everything we have accomplished should be recognized on a day to day basis.”
If you are interested in joining or learning more about Black Men Unified they can be found on Instagram @blackmenunified
This article is part of the Shedding Light on Black Excellence, a February series by The Rider News to showcase impactful Black figures at Rider University.