Fiona Murphy, Editor-in-Chief
March 2nd, 2020
The first ever Black Student Union assembly was held on February 26, 27, and 28. The assembly covered a multitude of topics, including the origins of Black History Month, fashion, culture, appropriation, microaggressions, and the prison industrial complex.
The passion among the BSU members was palpable as president Nishyra Aaron-Williams introduced the event.
The presentation started with a brief history of Black History Month, which originally started as a week and was only recognized nationally in the 1970s when then president Gerald Ford encouraged the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Treasurer Halle Smith focused on black beauty and fashion in her part of the presentation. Black women are consistently underrepresented in advertising and media. She also explained that when black people are present, the portrayals are racist.
“When there are black characters in TV and movies they are constantly put in negative stereotypes like living in poverty, unemployment, violence and drug related crimes,” Smith said.
Vice President Bella Volz-Broughton took over to speak about cultural appropriation.
“There’s many dominant cultures that tend to be especially white people that take part of a minorities’ culture and use it for clout or to gain a profit or even a following,” she explained. “Things that may be worn or used by that dominant culture wont recieve the backlash that a minority culture will receive if they represent their own culture.”
Volz-Broughton stated that one can appropriate a culture without realizing it. She continued to show some examples of appropriation, including Kim Kardashian with a culturally African American hairstyle.
“People like the Kardashians have made this a trend by being culture vultures, which is like wearing their hair in cornrows or laying their edges and calling it boxer braids and then getting praised for it. Where, if I did that, or someone with an even darker complexion than I did, they would be called ghetto,” Volz-Broughton continued.
She then spoke about the history of slavery, racism, and discrimination in the United States, emphasizing that the majority of Black history what spent in slavery, then facing legal discrimination, and now, fighting other forms of racism.
Jackie Garcia took over the presentation to speak about police brutality and discrimination in the legal system.
“Throughout history, african americans have been harassed, beaten up, and murdered by police, and many officers who abuse their power are never reprimanded or punished,” she said.
She then cited several statistics.
“Over 1,100 African Americans were murdered by law enforcement just in 2015,” she said. “Police brutality causes fear and distrust among members of the African American community.”
She then explained that while 1 in 17 white men will face jail time, 1 in 3 black men will as well, and while 6.5 percent of the United States population is black men, they account for 40.2% of the prison population.
Emilio Zuniga also took the stage to educate the assembly on microaggressions faced by students of color.
“Microaggressions occur when a person of one race intentionally or unintentionally voices hostile, derogatory or negative slights or insults towards another group. This happens without you guys knowing,” he said. “People are being disrespectful without knowing it and you need to stop it. We are hurting people, we are discriminating without even knowing. Do you know how bad that is?”
Zuniga’s passion was evident as he showed examples of microaggressions such as touching hair, tensing up when a black man walks by, or asking “what” someone is.
“How would that make you feel?” he asked.
He then called on students to speak up when they witness microaggressions.
In an earlier interview, Aaron-Williams said she has experienced “people asking to touch my hair or people not even asking just coming over and floofing it.”
The presentation ended with Scout Buendia calling on the students and staff to come together as a community in order to be better and support each other. The assembly itself ended as BSU adviser Shannon Kresge facilitated a privilege walk. In this case, students raised their hands when they experienced the given prompt, such as “I have never had to worry about paying my bills,” “I have never been discriminated against because of my race,” and, “No one has ever asked if I’m mixed or ‘what’ I am.”
This is the first year BSU, or the school, has held such an event and many students were thankful it occurred.
“I think this is important and necessary, and I’m sad it hasn’t happened in the past. I hope it can continue,” Hannah Davis, senior, said.
“Black History Month means a lot because it’s a whole month dedicated to the balck people who made a difference in our country and to celebrate black culture,” Aaron William explained. “It gives people an opportunity to learn more about history other than the everyday white history that is being taught in schools.”