Campus organization provides forum, service opportunities for African-American women

Marie A. Mennefield wants to bring diversity through her organization Black Woman at Western. She hopes the organization brings awareness of representation of African American woman at WKU’s campus. “Black Women of Western represents the epitome of Black Girl Magic, we are all so different; however, we are able to come together to produce greatness” Mennefield said.

Sarah Yaacoub

For students like Nashville junior Marie Mennefield, finding a place to belong on a campus as big as WKU’s can be as important as it is difficult, so she and several other students helped found Black Women of Western, also known as BWOW.

BWOW is a registered student organization dedicated to providing minority women, particularly African-American women, with a place to discuss the issues the African-American community faces today. She currently serves as social chair of BWOW, and she has been part of the organization since its start during the spring semester of 2016.

“It is a predominantly white institution, but we want to show them that there is something here for us,” Mennefield said. A predominantly white institution, or PWI, is a school in which over 50 percent of the student body identifies as white.

Mennefield said that particularly with university staff and faculty, it is difficult to find African-American people for students to identify with, and BWOW seeks to bring African-American students together.   

“Whether they have some kind of problem or issue, or they just need to talk to someone who looks like them, we can point them in that direction,” Mennefield said.

She explained one of the organization’s Black History Month projects, which was to routinely post faculty and staff spotlights to showcase the roles of various African-American university employees.

Before BWOW, there was the Minority Women of Western, but that group eventually disintegrated and was revamped and renamed to reflect the population it existed to serve.   

One of the most important elements of BWOW is community involvement. The organization holds internal forums and meetings, and it tries to connect with other local groups and people on campus and in the surrounding areas.   

Nashville junior Keturah Kirby, an elementary education major, said that one of BWOW’s primary goals is to get more involved with the outside community, which she said it achieves by “going into local schools, showing we’re here and that we matter.”  Kirby, who started as secretary and has now climbed her way up to vice president of the organization, also said a big part of the program is to encourage young African-American women to go to and stay in college and make sure they feel welcome on WKU’s campus.

Since its inception, BWOW has expanded in terms of both membership and outreach. While Mennefield said there is no official member list, the turnout for events grows as more people learn of the organization. With growth comes new partnerships and new opportunities for involvement in local affairs.

“We try to show the community that we are here, and we do want to help improve WKU and Bowling Green, too,” Mennifield said. “We don’t want to sit by in the shadows.”

Features reporter Sarah Yaacoub can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @SarahYaacoub1.