Headshots of Victoria Bonds, Zhara Edwards and Laila Michel

Get to know the presidents of three Black student organizations at CWRU

Each February, Black History Month recognizes African Americans’ societal contributions and achievements across the United States. At Case Western Reserve University, the impact of Black members of the campus community—such as those who compose CWRU’s diverse student organizations—can be observed throughout the year. 

To learn more about how Black student organizations contribute to the overall campus environment, The Daily spoke with student leaders from several groups. Follow along to hear from Victoria Bonds, president of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA); Zhara Edwards, president of the African American Society; and Laila Michel, president of the Black Student Union

Answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Headshot of Victoria Bonds

Victoria Bonds

Expected to graduate in 2024, Victoria Bonds is a second-year law student pursuing her Juris Doctor degree at the School of Law. Bonds also serves as president of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) where she advocates for the needs of Black students. 

  1. Why did you join the BLSA?

When I began law school, I had many questions about classes, exams, networking, jobs, etc. Members of the BLSA provided me with invaluable information, resources and connections. I also found our BLSA community–including our faculty advisor, Ayesha Bell-Hardaway—to be incredibly selfless. Any challenge I faced, I was fortunate to look to this community for support, encouragement and direction. 

  1. How does your organization contribute to the CWRU campus? What do you hope to accomplish within your organization?

The Black Law Student Association supports Black students and allies as they navigate law school. We also organize events and workshops that help students excel academically, professionally and socially. 

Our main goal is to continue to be a resource as many of our members are not from Ohio and are first-generation law students. Our efforts are aimed at bridging the information gap that is common for first-generation students.

  1. What is your favorite memory of the organization?

My favorite BLSA memory is our annual Black Ties Celebration, which brings current (and prospective) students, alumni and the broader legal community together for an evening of recognition and celebration. This year, our Black Ties Celebration is on March 25. 

Headshot of Zhara Edwards

Zhara Edwards 

A fourth-year medical anthropology student with a minor in public health, Zhara Edwards joined the African American Society (AfroAm) in 2020 and served as the public relations chair for three years before being promoted to vice president. Now, Edwards helps lead AfroAm events and programming as the organization’s president. 

  1. Why did you join the African American Society? 

I wanted to get to know other Black students on campus who wanted to keep our community connected and plan events relevant to Black culture and issues. It has been an amazing time serving AfroAm for the past three years and has been my favorite leadership experience to date. 

  1. How does your organization contribute to the CWRU campus? What do you hope to accomplish within your organization? 

AfroAm is most known for our annual flagship event—Ebony Ball—which gives students on campus the opportunity to hear from an amazing keynote speaker, eat good food, meet new people and dance. 

We do our best to provide a safe space for all Black students on campus by focusing on Black issues (and culture) during our events and ensuring that everyone is having fun. This semester, we will be doing service work and fundraising for Black organizations in Cleveland, as community outreach is important to our organization. 

  1. What is your favorite memory of the organization? 

I loved all our events, but our most recent movie night, where we watched Candyman, was fun! We had a cotton candy machine and popcorn, and everyone seemed to enjoy the movie. It definitely reminded me why I became a part of AfroAm. 

Headshot of Laila Michel

Laila Michel

A fourth-year cognitive science and international studies student with a minor in African studies, Laila Michel is the president of the Black Student Union. On campus, Michel has also participated on the women’s swimming and diving team

  1. Why did you join the Black Student Union? 

I joined [the Black Student Union] because I was looking for [a sense of] community. Black students at [predominantly white institutions] have unique experiences that oftentimes can only be understood amongst each other. 

  1. How does your organization contribute to the CWRU campus? What do you hope to accomplish within your organization?

We are the umbrella organization of six amazing Black student organizations at CWRU. Our goal is to create connections across the diaspora, so that Black students can move through each organization with ease and not be confined to one community. We also work with the CWRU administration to advocate for the Black student body. 

  1. What is your favorite memory of the organization? 

Our annual Black to School Barbecue is a favorite because it’s always good to see everyone back on campus celebrating, dancing and eating good food. I also love Black graduation because we celebrate undergraduate, graduate and even [Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Institute of Art] students. 

To discover more cultural student organizations at CWRU, visit the CampusGroups website