The 1969-70 members of FSO, many of whom participated in the 1970 lockout of the SUB.
In November 1968, The Decaturian campus newspaper announced the formation of a new student group, For Soul Only (FSO). From the start, FSO set its goals: “the unifying of Black students, the pursuit of Black education and cultural enrichment, the orientation of new Black students, the protection of Black students from discrimination, the service to the Black Decatur community, and the observance of Black Holidays.” The members of FSO were active and vocal in pursuing their goals, sponsoring events such as “Black Emphasis Week” for the campus and Decatur community. Members were also frequent contributors of news, poetry and opinion pieces to The Dec and wrote a regular Dec column called “The Soul Spot” from 1969 through early 1971.
The group also held one of the most visible examples of student activism on the Millikin campus. On the evening of Friday, April 24, 1970, the FSO members locked themselves in the lower level of the then University Center (also known as the SUB, or Student Union Building). The lockout came after FSO’s request for a black culture house had been turned down by the university. The group used signs to cover the glass doors and windows with messages, including “No Black House No SUB – FSO.”
The students held their ground into the next day, despite being told they were in violation of a student handbook policy preventing “disruption of the normal operating function of the university, including interference with free use of corridors and entrances to rooms and buildings.” Negotiations with a group of Millikin adminstrators, local ministers and community officials were held the next morning. Faced with the possibility of an injunction against the group for interfering with the use of a campus building, FSO members dispersed that afternoon, following an agreement to discuss their request with a diverse group of university representatives within a few days. Those closed meetings were held April 30.
In 1971, members of For Soul Only, a student group, opened a black culture center in the lower level of the Old Gym.
By May 8, The Decaturian reported that the executive committee of the university’s board of trustees had approved FSO’s request for a black culture house, but original plans to have the house open by September 1970 were delayed. Tensions rose again when it was discovered that renovations to bring Mercer Hall (the planned location for the house) up to current building codes were cost prohibitive. The Sept. 25 Dec reported on a forum held in Albert Taylor Hall to relate the lack of progress on the black culture house to a crowd of 100, mainly students. Feelings ran high; at one point the FSO members read a statement of protest and most of them left the meeting.
University officials offered the lower part of the Old Gym to FSO for its meeting space, which was accepted by the membership that fall. The Old Gym had the advantages of being a more centralized campus location and less expensive to rehabilitate. FSO accepted this offer, and its members even assisted with renovations, which were mostly complete by April 1971, a year after the protest.
In the 1971 Millidek, FSO was quoted as looking forward to the culture center acting as a “focal point at Millikin and in Decatur for furthering communication” and noted that “...The campus awaits the construction of the Center and the rebirth of political activity.”
For Soul Only changed in name to the Black Emphasis Association in the 1980s and finally the Black Student Union in the 1990s, the name still held today. Since its somewhat tumultuous beginning, this student group has continued to thrive as one of many student organizations promoting diversity and cultural awareness on campus.