Students at the University of Maine at Farmington have established the campus’ first Black Student Union. From left are members LaVonne Agyaman, Ava Anderson, Aman Hagos, Moussa Dienta, Klaus Jacobs and Yussuf Adow. The union hosted events for Black History Month last week. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington’s first Black Student Union is finding its footing since being approved last fall, organizers said during Black History Month.

Its mission is to offer Black students a place to connect, be allies and learn about history and issues that impact Black people.

Aman Hagos, a junior, estimates there are about 20 Black students on campus. In light of the number, he began the journey of starting the union, along with junior Reese Remington and others.

The members said it was needed because finding a sense of community was hard.

“It’s harder to get to know other Black students on campus,” Remington, a political science major, said.

Hagos, a secondary education major on track to teach history, said he was friends with other Black students, but there wasn’t an intentional circle where all Black students were encouraged to form community.


While there are other multicultural clubs at UMF, such as the Queer Student Union, Remington said she couldn’t find a space that centered on Black identity and experience.

Klaus Jacobs, a freshman, said it was harder to keep tabs on racist incidents on campus and in the town of Farmington.

It was also harder to find spaces free of microaggressions, Remington and Jacobs said.

Merriam-Webster defines microaggression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.

“They’re small and, whether in day-to-day conversation or actions, from your own biases prevent you from treating someone, like people of color and Black people, with the same type of respect and attitude that you would towards a white person,” Remington said.

Klaus said examples include off-hand statements that perpetuate stereotypes such as Black women are “angry,” they “like fried chicken and watermelon” or they have “exotic” hair.


Another aspect of college life for Black students, Hagos said, is “most Black people on this campus feel uncomfortable just walking around.”

“It’s uncomfortable (to) see so many people that don’t look like you, talk with you, that don’t share a culture with you,” Hagos said.

He said he always craved finding intentional Black community at UMF after growing up in Cape Elizabeth, where he was one of a few Black people in the area.

Then, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis in 2020 by Officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked a major Black Lives Matter movement across the world to protest police brutality in America. Experts have called the 2020 movement “the largest movement in [America’s] history.”

Hagos’ need to take action – both in Cape Elizabeth and at UMF – intensified in the wake of the protests, the ongoing epidemic of police brutality against Black people and alleged racist incidents on campus.

“I just found myself sad,” Hagos said. “I felt something within me that I had to do something because I can’t just sit around all day and scroll through my phone and see another lynching of a Black man, another police brutality case, because that’s just too much.”


Hagos first led a teach-in about the Black Lives Matter movement at UMF in October 2020.

“Wherever I go, I have to advocate for my people,” Hagos said. “Because I know what it feels like to be lonely, (to be) the only Black person in school getting picked on, racial slurs thrown at me.”

In the fall of 2021, Hagos and Remington began the process of formally establishing the Black Student Union as a club, which included getting approval from Student Senate.

Meeting with the Student Senate, Remington said she was asked questions about whether white students would be excluded from the group and how the group would handle instances of racism.

She said she felt this line of questioning is not what other groups faced, including the Jewish Student Union and Queer Student Union.

And the issues, Remington said, are ongoing. The Black Student Union was only recently granted access to its official club email, which made it difficult to communicate with other students, participate in UMF’s recent club fair and receive important information from the Student Senate.


The delay wasn’t intentional, she said, but was indicative of being “racially tone deaf.”

As a history teacher in the making, Hagos also emphasized the importance to him of the educational aspect.

Though the Black Student Union is about centering on Black identity and experience, there are opportunities for white students “who are coming from a place of understanding … and wanting to learn more,” Hagos said.

Remington said, “We’re giving them the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about our culture so that they can also be better friends and allies.”

“The (UMF) community has an opportunity to learn about, understand a different culture and opportunity to learn different things that you wouldn’t, that you weren’t taught in school,” Hagos said.

The importance of education was emphasized during the Black Student Union’s observance of Black History Month last week.


Aman Hagos, president of the Black Student Union at the University of Maine at Farmington, speaks to students Tuesday about Black history and Sojourner Truth. The presentation was a part of the group’s observance of Black History Month. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

On Tuesday, it hosted Presentation of Heroes, teaching others about the history of lesser known figures in Black history.

Hagos, union Secretary Moussa Dienta and Jacobs did presentations on Mansa Musa, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Claudette Colvin, a Black teenager who refused to leave her bus seat before Rosa Parks’ famous act of protest.

Hagos also presented a comprehensive history of the Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013 after the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin.

At the end of the presentation, Hagos advised white students to “show up, educate yourself … challenge predominantly white spaces, challenge your allies … find what activism works for you.”

At the same time, Hagos stressed the Black Student Union is first and foremost a “safe space” for Black and indigenous students to find acceptance and connection at a predominantly white institution.

“As a club, we value a sense of home, a sense of family (and) feeling comfortable in a space,” he said.

Jacobs, from Baltimore, said members appreciate the “sense of community” they’ve found … “what it’s like to be Black in a mostly white community.”

“When I heard the Black Student Union was starting … it was nice to find out there’s going to be a place for people just like me,” he said.

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