Black Student Association: A Safe Space for All Students

Members of the BSA planned and hosted the first Black History Month assembly in February 2020. Photo contributed by Ms. Marsh.

For Eliana M., it wasn’t until two years into high school that she discovered the Black Student Association (BSA). 

For her first couple years at WCI, she had yet to find a place where she could share her experiences and make friends with other Black students, The BSA brought her to know more people like her that she could relate to, a place where, in Eliana’s words, she could “relate to others peoples’ stories and experiences with racism.”

Eliana credits Ms. Janke, vice principal at WCI, for introducing her to the club: “Ms. Janke invited me to come to one of the meetings to see if I would like it, sometime in grade 10. I wasn’t familiar with the club and didn’t really get involved until the start of grade 11 where I started to attend the meetings regularly.”

According to Eliana, the club is about reaching more than one audience, not only black students, to help people feel safe and heard and to find ways to spread their voices amongst themselves and the student body. 

According to Ms. Marsh, an English and ESL teacher at WCI who is one of the staff leaders for the BSA, the club is “a safe space for [students] to enjoy time with peers and discuss issues that impact them.” 

Marsh says, “I think the BSA is also a force for good by existing; it sends a message that our Black students are here and taking up and back the space they deserve in school and beyond.”

Marsh also describes how she got involved with the BSA, and how the absence of these kinds of associations at her own high school motivated her to get involved in clubs that give all students a voice. 

“As a high school teacher, I love working with students to help build a better, more inclusive school space,” she says. “On an individual level, I realized that I wanted to do more to support our ACBi students and further my own work to actively be anti-racist and confront my own biases.”

Marsh talks about how she thinks that the school could be more educated on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and that the BSA might try to spread awareness but that it’s not up to club members to educate others on racism.

She says, “I think that if students in the BSA want to engage in more outreach and activism, then that is wonderful! I also think that if some students wish to keep the space as a refuge from racism, that is fine, too. The burden cannot be put ON our ACBi students to educate others about anti-black racism!”  

For Eliana, “What’s going on in terms of BLM, black students such as myself, should feel comfortable within the school environment.” 

“We all need to do better to educate, to learn, and make sure we’re doing all we can to create a safe space for all students,” says Eliana. She calls on the school and teachers to support the small population of Black students. Acknowledging them and their experiences is “helping to drive the movement.”

For students who are interested in joining the BSA, meetings are every Thursday at 2:00 pm via a Google Meet. The Google Classroom code can be found on WCI’s virtual clubs website.