BSU Hosts Black History Month Spirit Week and Celebration

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To celebrate the last week of Black History Month, M-A’s Black Student Union (BSU) held a spirit week with themed dress-up days, a bake sale, and an after-school celebration. Junior and BSU co-president Tatiola Sobomehin said, “We wanted to break the connotation of Black History Month being boring or super sad because we have a lot of celebration and joy within our communities. We planned our big celebrations during the last week of the month to go out with a boom.”

Throughout February, the BSU presented daily videos on M-A Today about Black history and culture. Sobomehin said, “I want to be a filmmaker, so I loved making fun videos to help educate people. Plus, we wanted to make sure that M-A knows our BSU is present and strong.”

Still from one of the BSU’s videos for M-A Today.

The BSU also organized themed spirit days for the final week of February. Students wore Pan-African flag colors on Monday, Black athlete jerseys on Tuesday, all black on Wednesday, and ‘90s throwback outfits on Thursday. The BSU also held a bake sale during lunch on Tuesday, selling treats like brownies and banana cream pie. Sobomehin explained, “Our bake sale is to help fund the future of our program. We want to have merch, plan more events, hire people to perform, and take field trips to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), so we need the money to do all of that.”

Junior and BSU co-president Apollo Jackson said, “It was challenging to make sure that everyone in the BSU was able to play a part in planning this week, but we made it happen. I’m really proud of the community that the BSU has formed this year and how we’re working to make ourselves known.”

Then, on Thursday evening, the BSU hosted an event in the PAC Cafe to honor the end of Black History Month. Despite heavy rain forcing the event to move inside, the event boasted a diverse turnout from M-A students, staff, parents, and community members.

Freshman Cordell Broussard said, “I came because I wanted to learn more about my culture. The food was amazing and I love how the community is like a family. I’m excited to see what’s next for the BSU.”

M-A’s step team—re-started by this year’s BSU after nearly 20 years—kicked off the event with a lively performance featuring a roll call, complex formations, and matching velour sweatsuits.

Students from the Intercultural Leadership class served ribs, pork, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, and cornbread from Back A Yard, a local Caribbean grill restaurant that Sobomehin called her “favorite Black restaurant in the Bay.” Outside, the BSU held another bake sale with strawberry shortcakes, fruit punch, and more.

The event also included a mac ‘n’ cheese cooking competition. Attendees, including School Board Trustee Shawneece Stevenson, offered their signature mac ‘n’ cheese dishes to community member judges for evaluation.

Sharifa Wilson, former mayor of East Palo Alto, said, “I think it’s wonderful how active the BSU has been, particularly when you look around the country at efforts to erase Black history in other states. I think it’s very important that students retain that history and highlight their culture.”

Local businesses and community organizations, including Live in Peace and the East Palo Alto Community Archive, set up booths to promote their programs. Local barbershop Sharp Images Hair Care worked throughout the event providing free, intricate haircuts. Others enjoyed a bracelet-making station, cornhole, dominoes, and Jenga.

Local artists B-R-E the Rapper and Stussy DJ performed next, and kept the audience dancing and singing along. The event concluded with a performance from BSU co-president Epiphany Bass and her mom singing “Free” by Deniece Williams.

BSU advisor Chloe Gentile-Montgomery, who hosted a poetry workshop at the event, said, “I’m really proud of the BSU for organizing these events and bringing their vision to life. I was out for a long time, and when I came back to school the students told me, ‘We’re doing this, this, and this.’ It was exciting to see how active they were.”

The BSU used to hold an annual Black History Month event called Night of Inspiration. In the past few years, though, the BSU “hasn’t done something for Black History Month to this scale,” according to Montgomery. Sobomehin added that this marked the first time the BSU and a leadership class had worked together to create a Black History Month event.

Sobomehin concluded, “There were a few unlucky last-minute complications, like the weather and people getting sick, so we had to rearrange a lot of things. Still, we were able to pull off a good event, so I’m really proud of us.”

Ben Siegel is a junior at M-A and in his second year of journalism. He is a Design Lead for The Mark and manages Bear Tracks, the M-A Chronicle’s weekly newsletter. His opinion piece calling for improved Holocaust education was recognized by CSPA as the best personal opinion about an on-campus issue in 2023. You can find more of Ben’s music journalism at Riff Magazine.

Amala is a senior at M-A, and this is her second year in journalism. She enjoys using journalism to explore education policy and highlight extraordinary individuals in the community. She is also a part of M-A’s Leadership-ASB, and spends her free time at the beach.

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