Union for All

First ever Black Student Union of SCHS

Union for All

by Danny Schneider, Poll Editor

On Tuesday March 16, the Black Student Union had its first meeting here at St Charles High. David Forbes and Abigail Birhanu are the two teachers who have been hard at work for a while trying to get this club together for the students.

“Forbes and I have been talking about a Black Student Union and we were going to start one last year and then the pandemic happened,” Birhanu said. “I want to say we have been talking about this for awhile. And then we found out that West had one. West’s is completely student based so we just got some ideas from them.”

Both Forbes and Birhanu checked with students to see if they would be interested.

“We have been talking to students to see if there was an interest and there was. Since there was an interest there, we have been collaborating to bring this to fruition and it worked out that the timing was right,” Forbes said.

Birhanu and Forbes wanted to give Black students a place to feel safe and to have conversations with other students of all backgrounds. 

“We just thought that this was a space that we both wanted to create for our black students and also their white friends and Hispanic friends and anyone who wanted to come – to come and support them,” Birhanu said. “Because being a minority or being the other is difficult. Just to have a space to just be together and to be honest about those experiences and we just wanted our students to have that.”

Social matters in our country also impacted their decision to create the club this year. 

“There are a lot of social issues that have been brought into the community and there are a lot of issues with identity and race that students of color face where they are,” Forbes said. 

Being someone who was a part of other clubs similar to the Black Student Union, Forbes knows that it helps.

I speak to that from experience, coming from a student who was a part of desegregation programs when I went to school. The challenges students may face as far as identity, as far as race, as far as culture and I just wanted to give them opportunities for students to express themselves.”

— David Forbes

 “I speak to that from experience, coming from a student who was a part of desegregation programs when I went to school,” he said. “The challenges students may face as far as identity, as far as race, as far as culture and I just wanted to give them opportunities for students to express themselves.”

Talking is a major point with this club. The students will be having conversations with each other about things that matter to them. Birhanu wanted to create this for students to do all of that and more.

“Create a space for the students to have conversations, to find community with one another and we are going to start with a book study. This book is called This Book is Anti-Racists by Tiffany Joel. And it is just about unpacking identity. No matter what ethnic identity we are unpacking that,” she said. “Like for white people how to be allies and help students of color overcome or for even LGBTQ students, supporting your friends in the LGBTQ community. All those groups that are marginalized and there’s intersectionalities in that marginalization and so just coming together and trying to be more equitable for all people in our society.”

In today’s society, students have more of a voice than ever before and that was Birhanu’s hope.

“It will empower our Black students and give them a voice to feel like they are a part of this school even more and feel more included and hopefully give them tools to have an even better high school experience,” she said. 

The club could be a big change for the school. Students will have most of the control within the club activities.

“The club is going to be student driven. All the teachers and staff members involved are going to be mentors or facilitators so far,” he said. “I think it is going to be a collaborative effort, but it is going to be something they decide whatever change they want to come up with and I am excited to see what that is.”

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