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Black Student Union mobilizes for campus sensitivity

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Black Student Union seeks to obtain a more socially aware campus

The September lunch fight and an alleged use of the N-word by a substitute teacher have triggered Black Student Union club members to foster a multi-pronged campaign of social awareness on campus. 

The BSU has made a series of moves making progress towards improving racial sensitivity at PRHS. The club’s social media accounts advertise its messages; additionally, members have created signs to post on campus. Members Naleah Daniels and Kelen Macharia are currently drafting a letter to school administration intended to voice a number of the club’s grievances.

“There are black people that go through [racial incidents like the one involving the substitute] everyday, and there’s nothing that can be done if no action is taken and people don’t speak up,” said senior Bryce McEwen, one of the BSU’s leading members. “My sister is just starting school and I don’t want her to ever go through something like this. But I can’t even attempt to prevent it if I don’t speak up and speak loud.”

Many BSU members expressed frustration with prevalent use of racial slurs on campus. They feel that considering the lack of response to the substitute teacher incident, administration is doing little to help create a more tolerant population. They are concerned that the club is viewed as a self-help club when, based on their own experience, a campus prejudice clearly exists. The issue is planned to be discussed at the next upcoming faculty meeting.

CREATING AN OPEN MINDED CAMPUS: Vice President Jaz Steve and about 20 other students gather Thursdays at lunch in room 403. BSU welcomes anyone who wants to join the club

I believe that it is the role and call for all of us to rise against the bullying, bigotry, and basic callousness that we see in our society. We should not pick any one group of disenfranchised or beaten down students, but stand up for all, and I call on my colleagues, peers, and students to do the same. We are better. We all deserve better,” engineering teacher and club room host Alisa Bredensteiner said.

On Thursdays at lunch, a group of about 20 people meets to discuss events, community service ideas, and other topics related. Most recently, they are planning to have a lunch where a large group can gather at a designated area to bond on campus, called “Black Wednesday”.

President Garrison Thomas and Vice President Jaz Steve implemented rules into the club to make sure all students feel safe and welcomed in the club. These rules include: be respectful, don’t interrupt, and be open minded. “We decided to make those rules so everyone has a voice and is heard,” Steve said. These rules reflect the larger behavior it is expecting of students campus-wide.

 McEwen and senior Sara Metzler run the social media accounts of BSU and are activists trying to increase cultural understanding on campus. They recognize that for change to occur action needs to happen. 

Casual and inflammatory use of the n-word by many PRHS students is one of the club’s most important concerns, according to many students and adults interviewed. The slur was a triggering factor in the lunch fights of September 2019.

“Racial incidents aren’t something that we should have to go through, especially when it is unprovoked, and we’re just trying to get our education,” McEwen said. 

Additionally, the club is preparing to meet with PRHS faculty this month in their campaign to improve campus sensitivity. They are also in touch with representatives from the NAACP — the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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