AAFS Coalition hosts forum and picnic

Students safely gathered together for a picnic hosted by the African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition (AAFSC) from 4-6 p.m. on Sept. 9 at the Smith University Center.

The event had light refreshments for the students to enjoy throughout the event. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, a sandwich, chips and a cookie were all pre-wrapped and packaged in to-go boxes.

Even though students, faculty and staff took as many boxes as they could, there was still a lot of food left over.

Linda Sullen, president of the AAFSC, addressed the students and told them about what their organization was about.

Sullen said the picnic was to make students aware of the AAFSC presence on campus because many students, and even faculty, didn’t know they existed.

“We’ve heard from faculty members, staff members and students that they were not aware we existed,” Sullen said. “And it was an opportunity for us to express who we are and what our mission is.”

Sullen told the students about the different opportunities for students that the AAFSC provides through five scholarships.

Sullen wanted to erase the stigma around the title of the organization.

“The title kind of scares people away,” Sullen said. “And I don’t know if they think that we’re a cult and we don’t mean for the title to be offensive to anybody, but at the same time we don’t want to lose our identity.”

Although the AAFSC is a group of black faculty and staff, they provide assistance and guidance to all students.

“It’s just not minority students that we are here for,” Sullen said. “We are here for all students.”

The cookout also highlighted the growth of the organization, which started 25 years ago.

“Twenty-five years ago, this campus did not look the way it looks today,” Sullen said.

Arthenius Jackson, a former member of AAFSC, performed two of her original songs at the event.

Jackson said she had worked at FMU for five years before leaving in 2017 and always looks for opportunities to give back.

“I try to stay connected because I appreciate everything that they’re doing,” Jackson said. “I want to keep giving back and do as much as I can to still be a part of them.”

Jackson said it felt good to be back on campus with the coalition and to see them still interacting with the students.

“It’s good to see the coalition still moving and progressing and doing what they started from the beginning,” Jackson said. “Giving back and helping students.”

Jackson also said her organization, One Touch Transformation, a group geared toward sexual abuse awareness and prevention, also gives money to the AAFSC Yvonne G. Davis Scholarship.

SGA President Tymoshio Robinson said the event went well and he was informed about an organization he didn’t know was on campus.

“I think it was a great event,” Robinson said. “But I never knew about them, so it was great to see the faces behind the organization.”