University Housing Blog

Honoring the past, celebrating the present, anticipating the future: Salongo BSU celebrates 50 years

A blog post written by Shannon Fricke, University Housing marketing student staff writer

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Salongo Black Student Union (BSU) for the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall (PAR), the University of Illinois’ very first BSU. Salongo is Swahili for, “we come together to create something beautiful out of love,” and the organization is planning a very special celebration that does precisely that. Put your best outfit on and head over to the Illini Ballroom on February 24 from 5–8 p.m. where there will be a special guest speaker, live performances, and food. This is a can’t-miss event! 

To commemorate Salongo’s 50-year anniversary, we talked with Salongo advisor Norma Garcia and executive board members Terrell Shall and Tatianna Keaton to discuss the creation of the organization and the exciting forthcoming milestone. What began in 1968 in PAR as a place to foster and support the African American community on campus has evolved into a student union with a strong presence that serves as an avenue to increase awareness of campus opportunities in a bevy of areas including cultural, educational, developmental, and social.

While Salongo does a fine job incorporating fun into their system, they also understand the importance of learning how to achieve the perfect balance between entertainment and work. Tatianna points out how, “we aren’t afraid to discuss the hard stuff in the black community, in our country, and in the world. Not everything is fun and games, but not everything has to be so serious. We get to have healthy conversations surrounding these issues.” Terrell also notes that networking is a huge benefit for those in Salongo. “You get to meet so many people from different majors who are from all over, you learn about different internship opportunities, and you just learn from one another.”

Members of Salongo are able to turn to and rely on each other for a variety of needs. “Salongo has always been a safe space for me. Being able to be around black people for an hour every week is something I look forward to. Just knowing I have a place to call my own on campus really means a lot to me.” Tatianna describes Salongo as a family. There is also a great amount of positivity in the Salongo community. One of the aspects of Salongo that Terrell highly appreciates is that it is “a place I can always go to for positivity. No matter how high your high is, or how low your low is, you always walk away with something inspiring.”   

In the recent past Salongo has collaborated with other BSUs on campus, it has co-sponsored events with the Latino Student Association (LSA) to create solidarity within the black and brown community, and worked with the Women’s Health Center. They have also held events such as Dine and Discuss, Paint Night, Speaks and Sings, and discussions on topics such as black representation in the media. The unique thing about Salongo is that they never repeat topics. Everything that is covered is always fresh, new, and relevant. Not only is Salongo active within PAR, but they are also very active in the community as a whole. In the past they have participated in events such as the Martin Luther King Day of Service, the Wounded Warrior Project, and they are currently working with Courage Connection by collecting donations for individuals and families who are victims of domestic violence. 

These are just a few highlights for this reputable organization. When asked to point out a notable accomplishment for Salongo, Tatianna mentioned the 50th anniversary celebration itself. “Just putting it together. Everyone on the executive board is passionate about Salongo and putting all of our thoughts and ideas into action, being present, and turning 50 is a big deal.” We are so humbled and proud to be celebrating the existence of Salongo BSU and all they have accomplished. You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to be a part of Salongo’s history and this special night dedicated to “honoring the past, celebrating the present, and anticipating the future.” 

Salongo meets on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. in PAR, and you can follow them on Twitter (@salongoPAR).