BHM: Black Student Union brings Manual community together


Kaelin Gaydos

BSU typically plays games like jeopardy and trivia during their meetings. Photo by Kaelin Gaydos

Kaelin Gaydos, Ava Blair

Every Friday after school, laughter and bubbly chatter can be heard from the freshman cafeteria where the duPont Manual Black Student Union meets. Students come to play games, hang out with their friends and learn in an environment where they feel a sense of belonging. The main goal of BSU, as coined by students, is to teach about Black history and raise awareness of current racial issues.

Some meetings focus on lighthearted topics in fun ways, like Black history trivia. Some, meanwhile, focus on heavier topics, such as generational trauma and racial inequalities in healthcare. 

BSU is a welcoming community that offers a place for all members to express their opinions on the topics covered and to be themselves.

“Typically at meetings, we try to educate people on certain topics that might be something prominent or something going on in the world right now, or even just something big and important that everyone should know about. We also try to make sure that it’s not only just learning because we know that everyone just came out of school and they’re probably tired, so we try to do something fun,” Secretary Romaro Knight (11, HSU) said.

During one of these meetings, students read descriptions of famous black historical figures one at a time while everyone else tried to guess who was being talked about. The purpose of this was to teach the students about lesser-known people that still made an impact on society.

Manual’s Black Student Union, established in 2014, was not only the first in JCPS but also in Kentucky; with 125 people belonging to BSU, it has the largest membership in the state. 

We’ve been allowed to build capacity at Manual these last few years and it’s really morphed into its own community by itself; it’s a nurturing community, it’s a sympathetic community, it’s a community that continuously has dialogue about serious issues in our school- not just in our school but in our entire community,” Black Student Union sponsor Jon Palmer said.

The BSU keeps its involvement and visibility within Manual high, with Black History Month, BSU is hosting a spirit week. The dress-up days will carry over from last week into the first two days of this week. Monday’s theme is Pan-African colors and Tuesday is a blackout.

Although the BSU today is thriving and has a large membership, it took time and dedication to get the organization up and running. A former principal at Manual was concerned about the lack of inclusivity and thought that because it had the name “Black student union” people would be excluded. However, the board members have stated that anyone can join.

“Anyone who agrees with the message, no matter what race, can join,” Jahne Brown, the founder of Manual’s BSU, said. 

Despite these challenges, the BSU has grown into something bigger, as there are now also white and Hispanic participants. A lot of the members find BSU a safe place since they can discuss different, relevant topics that have an impact on their lives.

“BSU is all about unity, so here we’re all about coming together as one united; we don’t always have a place that we can come together as one, so this is just a safe space for all of us,” Creative Director Asia Leach (11, VA) said.