Just a few weeks after River Ridge High School approved the new black student union (BSU) as an official club, a few members came into a meeting with something to share: a flier advertising a white student union at the school. The club for white students would turn out to be a prank, but it was precisely the type of rhetoric that had inspired them to start the BSU in the first place.
Several months earlier, students had approached art teacher Christie Tran with fear and anxiety in the wake of the divisive 2016 campaign. Already used to gathering in her room—“all the time, before school, after school, during lunches,” she recalls—they had built a rapport of trust together. They shared their thoughts openly with her, their fears that the campaign’s rhetoric was inciting more violence toward black and brown people. With heavy hearts, they wanted to take collective action.
The group’s constitution outlines its mission and philosophy, which features five key pillars: education, outreach, representation, civic engagement and economic empowerment.
BSU members maintain a packed schedule. They are currently petitioning the district to mandate ethnic studies courses and advocating for more robust restorative practices to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. They have addressed equity committees at district schools, the multicultural action committee, a minority educator roundtable and several state senators’ meetings.
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