Deandre Radcliffe, a political science major and president of the Youngstown State University Black Student Union, said he and his peers want to get rid of the stigma that haunts the black youth at YSU.
YSU BSU members plan to counteract perceptions of violence with positive action, including book drives, human trafficking awareness events and tutoring.
“The black community has been getting a lot of negative attention with the hazing and shooting trials,” Radcliffe said. “We want to get back to the positive community efforts.”
Cryshanna Jackson, adviser of the YSU BSU and assistant professor of political science, said stereotypes often arise when a minority group is involved.
“All of those comments on The Vindicator’s website after the hazing trials … about thugs and ‘What do you expect from those kids?’ … doesn’t represent us at all,” she said. “That’s not necessarily true for the thousands of members of that fraternity.”
Jackson said the organization is using positive energy to counteract what she calls assumptions.
Radcliffe started the group in the fall as an outreach for the black population on campus.
“Many other colleges have a black student union, and it was needed for the culture, history and population it serves,” Radcliffe said.
The YSU BSU is taking steps toward overcoming the black community’s current reputation in the media.
In an effort to improve the image of the black community, the organization launched a yearlong book drive. It is collecting books in Cushwa, DeBartolo and Meshel halls.
Both Radcliffe and the YSU BSU’s 35 other members are sending all kinds of books to impoverished countries.
Radcliffe added that the organization just sent 500 books to children in Malaysia.
The organization wants to help locally as well. The organization believes that positive press and reinforcement will enhance student retention rates at YSU while integrating black culture.
According to the YSU Office of Institutional Research and Policy Analysis, black students have the lowest retention rates at YSU — 44.4 percent between 2010 and 2011.
In response to Gov. John Kasich’s executive order and task force to battle human trafficking in Ohio, BSU will host a Child-Trafficking Room of Silence in the Gallery Room in Kilcawley Center on April 16 and 18.
BSU plans to make handprints on posters to signify awareness and help.
While Radcliffe said the city of Warren is a top area for human trafficking, Warren Police Chief Timothy Bowers said he disagrees.
“We have massage parlors that are regulated, but there is no evidence of any human trafficking,” Bowers said.