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A Place to Call Home: Black Student Union

Students+in+Black+Student+Union+stepping+during+a+meeting.
Students in Black Student Union stepping during a meeting.

Students in Black Student Union stepping during a meeting.

Students in Black Student Union stepping during a meeting.

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Students in Black Student Union stepping during a meeting. Photo by Rachel Jacobi

In 2010, Janelle Johnson was given the role of advising the Black Student Union (BSU) at Community High School. Since then, the BSU has met in her room every other Tuesday at lunch, and she has helped coordinate many successful events. Johnson said that this year’s events “have gone really well. The participation has been great, and the feedback from the students has been fabulous.”

The group started off the year with a fundraiser on Nov. 1, 2011. Students gathered together in the crowded Craft Theater to watch their fellow classmates compete in the Annual Forum Talent Show. There were skits, dances and songs, but in the end the Rosewarne forum won with their rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” “It went really well. We raised a little bit over $100 for breast cancer awareness from all of the forums. Of course, it was also fun for everyone to be a part of,” Johnson said.

Next, the BSU ran the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly with Dr. Larry Rowley as the guest speaker. Dr. Rowley, a professor at the University of Michigan, spoke about Dr. King’s ideology and beliefs. In addition, students from Bryant Elementary performed two songs and shared their drawings. “Our MLK assembly was fabulous; it was really awesome. The little kids from Bryant were great, the speaker was great and our students accepted the speech really well. Everything was really positive,” Johnson said.

During February, which was Black History Month, the BSU added slides into the bi-weekly forum bulletin. The slides contained information about African-American culture and history. “It’s neat that BSU is providing Community students with the history of the African-American history in our country,” said CHS freshman Lydia Evans.

National African-American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) was on Feb. 13, and the BSU held a luncheon in the library with keynote speaker Delphine Lockhart, who works with Consolidated Solutions Group Government Solutions. For entertainment, CHS students Robert Stephens, Senait Dafa and Deondre Jones all performed different songs and dances. “We had a great turnout there –– our staff was very supportive. Students came out and we had some parents who came out also,” Johnson said.

Around Valentine’s Day, the BSU collaborated with the Community Ensemble Theatre (CET) to sell singing valentines and carnations on the second floor as a fundraiser for both groups. Johnson said, “[Selling carnations with CET] was great. We didn’t sell as many as we would have liked to have sold, but we really just collaborated as two groups, so that went well.”

The BSU interacts with other clubs in addition to CET. “We celebrated Chinese New Year with Judith’s Asian Student Union, and that was really fun. We visited her up [on the third floor,] and it was really nice of her to invite us,” said Johnson.

As usual, students come and go in BSU. “It’s not the same group because the seniors leave and you have to recruit to get more, but we have had some people who have been consistent, which is fabulous. And then we’ve had some new people come in also, which is great. We want to get some more freshman; we haven’t had as many freshman come in this year, so we’re gonna have a push to invite them and see if they’ll come. We have a good time, we do,” Johnson explained.

Johnson firmly believes in the importance of the BSU. She enjoys providing a place where African-American students can come together. “It gives African-American students a place where they can decompress with one another and discuss issues dealing with them in general, the school and issues pertaining to African-Americans. With students schedules being so hectic, and with so few African American students, it is difficult for them to see each other on a daily basis.” said Johnson.

The BSU has helped students become more comfortable at Community. Anyse Malcolm, who is a sophomore in the BSU, agrees with Johnson. “The BSU allows me to talk about things that I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable saying around anyone else. Being in the BSU is a lot like being at home with my family, which is great because I can be myself at all times,” said Malcolm.

CHS junior Obinna Ugwuegbu is also part of the Black Student Union. “[BSU] is a good way to gather with the African-American students at Community. It’s a good way for anyone to be involved with different things,” said Ugwuegbu.

As for the rest of the school year, the BSU still has one or two events planned for the rest of the year. “We’ve got more things that we’re going to do, and that will be it in terms of school wide things. We are planning to do Soul Food, but we don’t know the date yet. It’s a luncheon where there will be macaroni and cheese, green beans, chicken … We don’t know exactly what the menu is yet, but it’ll be in either March or April. We may do hot dogs on the lawn, but I’m not sure–we’re trying to decide. We may do a little end-of-the-year celebration as well,” Johnson said.

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A student voice.
A Place to Call Home: Black Student Union