by Mateo Requieo-Tejaada, Cael Hill, and Grace Gonsalves
February is the shortest month of the year; it’s also Black History Month. The Leadership classes, the Black Student Union, and the Las Lomas Administration have crafted an activity in the third week of February: Black History Month Q&A in the rally court, where participants who provide the correct answers can receive Girl Scout cookies.
Is this enough?
Nearly everyone we interviewed said they were doing their best to ensure that this year’s Black History Month would improve on Las Lomas campus. Many noted, though, that the school board and/or the Common Core did not require action or events for Black History Month. Unfortunately, last year when The Page ran a similar Black History Month article, the authors included inaccuracies in their reporting and diminished the school-wide need to recognize and celebrate Black History. This year everyone wanted to do more including Leadership, The Page staff, and the Las Lomas Administration.
Leadership is the driving force in charge of spreading awareness for events. They create most of the flyers you see around school, and organize events for students to participate in, such as dances, talent shows, and dodgeball games. According to the Acalanes Union High School District Course Catalog for 2018-2019, “The Leadership class is designed to engage students in shaping a positive campus environment and culture, and to develop students’ sense of social and civic responsibility…. Students will use these skills to plan and implement student activities on the school campus.” Based on this description, it would seem that Leadership has a responsibility to promote activities for Black History Month. So far, Leadership has decorated the campus with posters in addition to helping schedule the Q&A. Graduating Senior ASB President Zoe Chapital is one of the students on campus who wants to encourage more action from Leadership, if not for this year –for the years to come, and explains,“My greatest goal… is for it not to ‘fizzle out’ or become white washed when I go away, or when my Junior friends go away.” So far, she has created ideas to represent different cultures in a possible future cultural fair, but nothing specific for a Black History Month celebration. Ms. Fisher admitted that not much had been done in the past for Black History Month, but that she is trying to support it more this year. She added, “We can only do what we see and hear.”
Black Student Union
Las Lomas’ Black Student Union, or BSU, is often affiliated with Black History Month’s activities, mostly because Leadership and the Las Lomas Administration have assigned them to plan the activities for the month. However, the club’s true purpose is to create “a comfortable space for minorities to discuss their feelings… [and] experiences going to a predominantly white school and how to handle these experiences in an educated way,” according to Senior Faith Spencer, the sole leader of the BSU for almost two years. The responsibilities related to Black History Month have historically rested upon the shoulders of Faith Spencer. Ms. Fisher claimed Leadership is doing its best to accommodate Faith and BSU’s every need, and that the current relationship is positive and growing. When Faith Spencer was asked whether or not she gets support from Leadership and/or the Administration, she said, “I don’t,” and also added that the support has just recently grown. However, she has still been put in charge of a lot, including finding quotes from famous black figures to put on the posters that Leadership produced. While the BSU cares about how Black History Month plays out, their responsibilities only include creating a comfortable environment for students to meet up, not to ensure that Black History Month is celebrated.
In relation to Black History Month, how is Administration involved? Or how should they be involved? Since Leadership is collaborating with the BSU, Principal Benson and Associate Principal Giron have been verbally supporting Faith Spencer with brainstorming sessions and helping to ensure that the activities happen. Benson spoke about how we should be discussing race as a school. She said, “It’s okay to be honest about your experience, but that doesn’t negate or change someone else’s experience. That means [we should be] open and understanding of other people’s experiences.” When asked whether he can require teachers to teach black history, Giron said that teachers have some autonomy in their lessons, and that the school’s curriculum is decided by elected community members of the school board. He added, “If you look at who goes to the school board meetings, you’re not going to see a lot of people of color there.”
According to Spencer, to work towards a better Las Lomas Black History Month program next year, we must take steps to grow participation and talk more about Black History. One example of a successful Black History Month is from our neighboring school, Acalanes High. They spent a week dedicated to learning about Black History and discussing it. One of the activities that they had was the screening of the movie, The Hate U Give. Associate Superintendent for Human Resources and Student Services, Amy McNamara suggested more. She went into depth about how white students –the majority population –should acknowledge privilege issues. “Once you recognize that you have certain advantages, in terms of how you’re treated in society just because of your skin color –once you recognize this issue.– [you] can work towards a more just society.” She continued, “We often live in communities where we don’t think about race because what’s reflected back to us in media, or what’s reflected back to us in the news is largely a white experience. We [white people] never feel like a minority. We are not a not a racial other, but a racial dominant, so white people have to be able to see that. We do have racial problems, and we need to talk about how they show up on our campus, how students are hurt by it, and how we can educate people about it.”