Before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suspended Michigan schools to halt the spread of COVID-19, the Black Student Union (BSU) met each Thursday at East Lansing High School. Promptly at 2:35 p.m., doors to the Hub open and music pours out welcoming students of all backgrounds to a dialogue about race.
The group’s mission statement of is the ELHS BSU is that the ELHS BSU is “ A Brave Space dedicated to Black youth, promoting Black self love, aiming to give insight to those in our community as well as those outside.” During the 2019-2020 school year, in addition to their weekly meetings, BSU embodied this mission statement through their Black History Month celebration and presentation at ELHS’ annual Multicultural assembly.
BSU celebrated Black history month at ELHS was celebrated by BSU with a display of students’ portraits followed by a quote about why that student embodied what BSU calls Black excellence. Black excellence is a celebration of accomplishments by Black people. On February 27th, BSU continued the celebration with its first open mic night. Board members encouraged many ELHS students as well as students from surrounding BSUs in the greater Lansing area to get on stage and perform something. Okemos students Lirit Gilmore and Kaleb Crowell shocked delighted ELHS attendees with a lovely duet of “Best Part” by artist Daniel Caesar featuring H.E.R. The night evolved to interactive karaoke ranging from renditions of Adele to Coldplay. Based on the attendance and response that night, it is safe to assume BSU will likely be hosting more events like this on a regular basis once school returns to session.
At the Multicultural assembly, an annual occurrence at ELHS every March or February, BSU teamed up with several other racial, religious, and cultural clubs such as Muslim Student Association, Cultural Awareness, and Latinx Student Union to put on a display of culture for their fellow classmates. This year BSU elected to show a 10 minute homemade video about the importance of positive representations of Blackness. BSU members recreated classic photos of Black icons and discussed why the emulation images were important and how the members themselves were making Black history in the making.
BSU is intended to be a second home for Black students at ELHS. Active members show that the intention translates. Olivia Perry, a sophomore at ELHS who has attended BSU since her freshman year, affirmed this intention when she said she has been attending BSU since her freshman year. Perry said “My favorite thing is the sense of belonging that I get when I go to BSU, it’s safe.”
There is a bright future for the ELHS BSU beyond just this school year. The BSU has set their sights beyond just serving the ELHS population, and have started expanding towards the creation of a Black Caucus with surrounding schools to spread the feeling of belonging Perry talks about. They hope that by the next school year the growing Black Caucus would be able to host collaborative events.
ELHS Junior Laila Lloyd shares a similar love for BSU to that of Perry. Lloyd said, “My favorite part of BSU is the open environment, I feel free to talk about anything and everything there.”