Ava Seccuro co-editor-in-chief
If you walk around school it’s almost impossible to ignore the vibrant orange and black signs conveniently posted on every door connecting each building on campus, but it’s a completely different story to hang around and read them. And if you make it that far, you may find yourself asking, “We have a Black Student Union?”
Until this year, the high school has not had a Black Student Union (BSU) since 2015. But with senior Kimora Hale, the revival of the BSU has begun and is now in full swing.
In the past, the BSU was most active between 2010 and 2015, said BSU co-advisor Andre Law, who started as its faculty advisor in 2009. During Black History Month, the club used to hold assemblies which featured performances and skits; they would host fundraisers, soul food days, and bonding trips, do community service at food banks in downtown Los Angeles, as well as hold informational sessions about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
Law accredits the dip in BSU activity not only to the lack of students in general attending Beverly through the permit program, but also to declining school enrollment. Fewer students overall created less need for a BSU, but that all changed with Hale.
“No one really took on the role of bringing it back. So it just died out and then I felt like we needed one because there is a growing population of black kids,” she said. “I think it’s no secret that a lot of students have the same race hang out with each other, and I feel like Black Student Union is a place for black students and our allies to meet up and have a place of safety.”
Although this is Hale’s first year at Beverly, her experience holding a leadership position at Hollywood High School’s BSU was a “really great experience” and influenced her to create one on campus.
Another experience that led Hale to spearhead a BSU here was her time at an Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC) conference during her time at Hollywood High School.
“It was just really a great experience because we all got to experience life outside of high school, get in touch with other kids and other leaders,” she said. “That was one thing that I felt like students needed because there’s not a lot of celebration of blackness and black heritage at our school.”
Now, with 12 members and an established dynamic since January, the BSU is expecting to start planning events for the month of March going forward.
As community outreach is a goal for Hale and the rest of the BSU, it’s up to BSU treasurer senior Maliyah McKnight to plan events within budget to raise awareness for the BSU. And to Hale, McKnight has been “enthusiastic” and “instrumental” to the organization of the new iteration of the BSU. For McKnight, her enthusiasm has come out of pure surprise and joy that she felt from the very first meeting.
“The first day of BSU because I didn’t know half the kids that showed up, I’ve never seen any of them around the school. So I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know all these black kids went to the school, that’s crazy,’ so having them all in one setting was crazy to me,” McKnight said.
It is McKnight’s first year at Beverly as well, but coming from a predominantly black school in Chicago, she never had a BSU experience. Thus, both Hale and McKnight’s positions as both seniors and new students has posed some “unique challenges,” co-faculty advisor and school psychologist Dr. Everlyn Hunter said.
“One, it has not been around for the past few years. So, because of that, there isn’t a consciousness among the black students on campus, or anyone else really, as to its existence. There isn’t really a template as to what it should or shouldn’t look like, what it does. And, given that it’s student-run and those students have never had the experience of a Black Student Union here, they’re having to create something new,” Dr. Hunter said. “With Kimora being a senior, she’s been the driving force behind it, and that puts some unique pressures around it, how it’s going to work and what’s going to happen after.”
In addition, planning events has been somewhat of a challenge because Hale wants to make sure that the BSU is a student-run group.
“Our group is pretty tight, so every time we have a meeting, we all learn something different about each other and it’s just like a little family…I want this to be more like a family rather than a spectacle for the school. But because of that, we have to rely on the group members that we have,” Hale said.
However, raising awareness and getting other people to join BSU, for Hale, hasn’t posed a problem because, by the time word spread, people were “excited” to join an organization that hadn’t been present in so long, she said.
And a need for this organization there is. One of Dr. Hunter’s favorite moments while serving as faculty advisor was one that proved there was still a need for a BSU.
“After the first meeting broke up, I was about to walk out and one of the instructional aides for architecture, who was African American, stopped and said, ‘I just noticed what was happening over there and my son goes to this school. Is that a Black Student Union?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it is.’ And she goes, ‘I didn’t know it existed and I think it’s something that he would definitely like.’ It was a nice moment. It was awareness and showing that there is a need,” Dr. Hunter recounted with a smile.
Although event planning has been difficult because of how full Hale, KcKnight and other members’ plates have been, both Hale and Dr. Hunter want to focus on the sustainability of the BSU, and despite the fact that there has not yet been a definitive plan to who will assume leadership after Hale and McKnight graduate, their biggest concern is getting out the BSU’s message to encourage more people to join and to keep its spirit alive.
“Tell friends, tell people to join because the more the merrier, and I also don’t want us to have the stigma of, ‘You have to be black to join,’ because you don’t. If you have friends who are black and you care about awareness and culture, then I would say to join,” Hale said.
And for anyone who does want to join, meetings are on Tuesday at lunch in room S412. To McKnight, the BSU is open to anyone for anything.
“I guess it’s called Black Student Union,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like a melting pot of different races who want to come together and talk about whatever they want to and be a part of whatever you want to be a part of.