On Tuesday November 13, our host Aaron Perry speaks with students from West High School’s Black Student Union. The Black Student Union was established in 2004, and provides a community for students that hold them accountable to grades, community services, and mentoring. There are mentors who come in to offer tutoring services to the students, and the students in turn do mentoring in elementary and middle schools. Sean Gray, who has been with the School District for ten years, is a coordinator of student engagement at West High School, and also head varsity assistant for the Basketball team and the defensive line and running back coach for the varsity football team. Layla, a senior, has been a member of BSU for four years. She heard about BSU from her sister and cousins, who explained “this is something that actually their lives, and how they looked at life in general.” She explains how being in BSU has changed her attitudes and priorities towards academic studies. Darrel, a junior, explains that prior to joining BSU, he was doing badly in school, “but once I got into the group…it created a very strong structure for my life, and created a big base to go forward and be successful.” They speak about the Soul Food Luncheon, held during Black History Month, an event the entire high school looks forward to. Apart from food, they have spoken word, music, readings about historical black people, and an opportunity for the school to come together.
Another member, Jennifer, who is a junior, explains that they will be taking a trip to Florida later this year, where the will visit several universities. In the past, they have visited historically black colleges, “I would personally like to go because it’s giving me an opportunity as a darker skinned person to actually get the privileges that the majority might get. It shows me what I am capable to do. If you don’t show people that they can go to these HBCU or Ivy League colleges, well then they have nothing to shoot for. If you give them the opportunity and show them something, then they can strive for the best.” Sean explains the importance of giving the students an opportunity to see and tour the historical black colleges, “if some of our kids leave and go to these historical black colleges, most of them will come home…if they leave and they get that experience come home, then we have better leaders and communities that are being built.”
The Black Student Union holds at its core a set of principles, of which the organization is centered around. The principles are followed closely by the students, and also printed on the backs of the BSU shirts: Truth, Justice, Propriety, Righteousness, Harmony, Balance, Reciprocity, and Order. The BSU, they explain, is not meant only for African American students; anyone can join.
Black Student Union contact: Sean Gray (608) 204 4992
Listen to the full interview here: