Catlin Gabel Students Start a Black Student Union

By Xander Balwit

Catlin Gabel School, Catlin Speak

On Dec. 9, all of Catlin Gabel’s Upper School student body gathered in the library for a presentation by teachers on the recent events in Ferguson, Miss., New York City, N.Y., and Phoenix, Ariz. Afterwards, junior Ben Kitoko announced the creation of a Black Student Union (BSU) that would meet during co-curriculars.

The meeting in the library was full of objective statistics and perspectives and enticed the 50 students that gathered for BSU’s first meeting. The leaders asked for students to go around and say their name and why they were attending the meeting.

“I am definitely here because I want to learn. I don’t know nearly enough about why it is what is happening in this country is happening,” Kallisti Kenaley-Lundberg ’15 responded.

Co-leader Nathaniel Hamlett ’15 said his reason for being there and helping start the club was because, “I am a man of color, and I feel like there is too much waiting around for people to change things for us. I am tired of having fear in my life.”

Hamlett concisely summarized that the reasons for attending generally split into two groups: awareness and action.

The next part of the conversation was dedicated to a discussion on what “white privilege” was and what it meant to different individuals.

“Having white privilege means that I have the luxury of not needing to think about my race. I forget about my race all the time,” said Dash Shulman ’16.

One focus of Juma Sei and the other leaders of BSU is to rid people of the defensiveness that comes with talking about white privilege.

The conversation that BSU is going to continue to have is around trying to understand why it is that these erroneous acts of violence against people of color keep occurring in this country. Co-leader Kitoko implored people to reflect on why, saying, “I mean, no one is born racist.”

“Students can make a change. If you look back through history you see that the civil rights movement of the ‘60s was largely brought about by students,” Hamlett reminded the group.

Looking forward, the BSU invites all students and allies to join the club, which will start to meet regularly during co-curricular to generate ideas for pursuing social justice in the community.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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