Black Student Union opposes Gish name in Union theater

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The Black Student Union at BGSU is an organization meant to represent the interests of Black students and other underrepresented communities to which Blackness is intersectionally affiliated. To that end, we are obligated to bring attention to issues that our student body finds problematic. Recently, the relocation of the Gish Film Theater to the Bowen-Thompson Student Union has brought attention to the history of the Gish sisters, specifically, Lillian Gish. We raise criticism to her involvement in D.W. Griffith’s controversial silent film, “The Birth of a Nation.”

Originally called The Clansmen, this 1915 film was responsible for a national revival of the Ku Klux Klan, a white terrorist organization. The commemorative display that was installed in front of the newly located Gish Film Theater in the BTSU did not mention, to any extensive detail, this information.

The Black Student Union does not in ANY WAY bear ill will toward the Gish Sisters OR their legacy in American cinema/film history. Rather, we wish to tell history in great veracity and detail, including the parts that are deeply problematic. Opening up the conversation to the connection of Gish to “The Birth of a Nation” is not an attempt to slander her name but telling truth to her involvement in the revival of 20th century racism.

The disposition of the Black student body is one of discontent. The new theater display is more visible, open and noticed. This display is offensive to Black students whose families were affected by racism instilled in this nation. “The Birth of a Nation”is infamous because of its influence on American culture socially, politically and morally. As a representative body, the Black Student Union’s OFFICIAL POSITION regarding the Gish Film Theater name is OPPOSED.

WE, the executive members of the Black Student Union, wish to have the name of the theater changed to respect and create a more inclusive environment for students of color to belong, stand out and go far.