By Edna Aman, Contributor
BSU held a postponed Kwanzaa celebration on the last day of Black History Month with food, singing, and overall festivities celebrating Blackness.
The founding of the BSU club signified a new beginning for Black students within the Payton community. Payton students with roots in the African American Identity Club found community and solace within the space. “With BSU you get to be around people just like you, who are experiencing what you’re going through and can understand you.”, BSU’s secretary chair Ida Maina says.
There have been several racially-motivated incidents that have happened in the past several years, which have indirectly impacted the club, says club sponsor Dr. Russell. “One of my favorite students transferred. She was being bullied [by] racist harassment during her sophomore year, so it got to be too much so she left.”
BSU has become a safe haven for students to feel comfortable in their own skin, but BSU isn’t only a space for Black students. The club has impacted the entire school: “As for the Payton community as a whole, we make sure to also educate the whole Payton community and have resources and celebrations to enlighten them about our Blackness and have these Black students celebrate themselves.” Maina says. Events in the past years, such as the Kwanzaa Celebration of 2021 and the first Black History Month assembly in 2019 have shown the growth of the BSU community and how the club has educated more than just their members. As stated by member Johnathan Miller ‘22, “I’ve met many people through BSU and I was able to strengthen my relationships with people and my relationships with my peers which is something that I hold most central to my happiness.”
BSU has also participated in the systemic change of the schools curriculum and community. “When I started working here, there was little to no conversation about race and oppression, about diversity in the curriculum, or the experiences that Black kids are having here that were very different,” said Dr. Russell. The club has done a lot to incorporate the Black experience throughout the education system, such as making Honors African American Literature an available course alongside Honors Asian American Literature and Latin American Literature .
BSU hopes to enact more change in coming years. Students, especially the Black demographic, “[need] to know that they are entitled to every opportunity that the school offers and that they’re capable of doing anything that we provide to students here.” Dr. Russell says. “I hope that they’ll feel the voice of power to be themselves and to demand the type of education that they deserve.”
The unity of this force has proven to be strong throughout its time. Through championing activism and cultural awareness, BSU has helped enlighten the school-wide community to a culture that may be new to them. BSU strives “To be a strong and unified community of people who believe in justice and liberation and freedom, who think that they should have the opportunity to get an excellent education, who understand that we have a responsibility that’s bigger than ourselves.” says Dr. Russell. Their accomplishments as a community solidify true unity within the Black Student Union.