SRU’s Black Action Society celebrates 45 years, hosts organization’s first president
Feb. 17, 2017
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - There is little doubt that social media has changed the way people not only stay connected, but hear the latest news and information.
The medium has sparked ideas, disagreements and even social movements.
For O'Dell Richardson, a Slippery Rock University junior public health major from Philadelphia, a recent conversation on Twitter led to the discovery of a significant event concerning the student organization of which he is currently president, the Black Action Society.
"I was speaking with Azure Henley (a freshman criminology-criminal justice major from Pittsburgh) one evening and she mentioned that her grandfather had been a founding member of the BAS," said Richardson. "I had no idea we had a member with such incredibly strong ties to our past until she said that.
"It was that bit of information - from that single tweet - that drove me to dig into the BAS archives and take a hard look at our history. I wanted to know who her grandfather was, how the group was organized. I wanted a deeper understanding of the BAS and its history. From something so small, we've developed something very big."
That "something big" is a 45th Anniversary Celebration of the BAS, which will include an appearance by Henley's grandfather, Edward Scott, the first president of the BAS. The celebration will take place at 5 p.m., Feb. 17 in Room 320 of the Smith Student Center; as well as an anniversary banquet at 6 p.m., April 21 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.
Scott, a Pittsburgh native, received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from SRU in 1971; and master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy at Duquesne University in 1973 and 1986, respectively.
He has taught at the Community College of Allegheny County, the University of Calabar (Nigeria), Carlow College (Pittsburgh), Payne Theological Seminary (Wilberforce, Ohio) and Monmouth College (Illinois). He has been an associate professor of philosophy at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, VA since 1990. He has served as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies; assistant dean of the college; interim vice president for academic affairs; and dean of the college. In addition, he has served both James Madison University (philosophy) and Virginia Tech (Black studies) as an adjunct professor.
Scott's primary interests are the history of philosophy, hermeneutics, phenomenology, aesthetics and African American thought.
Through his writing, public presentations and addresses, Scott "pursues a richer understanding of the intersection between sacred and profane realities ... made evident in literature, music, politics and religious experience," according to the MBU website.
He was named the 2014 recipient of the Hiter Harris Jr. Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges.
In addition to his academic involvements, Scott is an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, currently pastoring Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Staunton, Virginia.
"It's very exciting for us to welcome Dr. Scott back to campus," said Richardson. "Personally, I am overwhelmed with joy to be able to meet and speak with a founding member of our organization and celebrate this milestone with him. Forty-five years is a long time and not a lot of clubs or organizations can say they have such deep roots. It is without a doubt a time of celebration."
Scott's SRU presentation, "Before & Beyond," will center on the early years of the BAS and why students felt the group was necessary at that time.
Richardson said that from its genesis as an organization meant to promote African American students, their history and act as a support group to celebrate their heritage, the BAS has evolved into an inclusive association for all SRU students.
"A lot of times, people think that BAS is only for black people, but that's simply not the case," Richardson said. "We really want everyone to be a part of who we are. We want to embrace everyone in our love and, yes, teach you about our heritage. But know that we want to learn about your (heritage) as well. When we learn together, we live together and understand one another on a whole new level. That can only make things better.
"BAS is like a family. We are open to everybody, regardless of race. We want to learn with you, have discussions with you and share ideas with you.
"We strive to include all people and it's showing at our meetings. The diversity of those checking us out continues to grow as we continue to reach out to all. That can only help to bridge the gap between races on campus and ultimately bring us together as one.
"I think the fact that a more diverse population is taking part in our efforts shows that we're moving in that direction - the right direction. We welcome all people and evidently, they feel welcome. People feel they can be a part of us and our efforts and that's an amazing feeling."
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