do many changes for our country. With President-elect Donald Trump transitioning into the White House and preparing to take role as commander-in- chief, many people around the country are fearful and anxious about the presidency and the fate of our nation. As a smaller community, Berkeley High School has come together to speak out against injustices and plan events around shaping a better future in and out of school.
On December 14th, the Black Student Union (BSU) held an assembly, “If Black People are Free, We All Get Free,” for the ASB speaker series. A link to the video of the panel discussion is available online.
“Our main theme was that when black people succeed in life, all people succeed in life,” said Claire Oby, President of the BHS BSU, about the assembly.
The assembly centered around a panel of three African-American UC Berkeley Alumni who answered 5 questions posed to them by the president and vice-president of the BSU.
The panelists responded to questions regarding how black people can come together, what allies can do, what freedom movements were inspiring, if black people deserve reparations, and what to do next around Black Lives Matter in this time of Trump coming into power.
All three panelists spoke passionately about how coming together in unity and making real life connections of love is a very powerful act in the face of oppression. Alana Banks, a panelist and a current co-director of the African American Student Development office at UC Berkeley said, “That’s the first step. Always putting out love and checking in with your friends… You can save someone’s life by just checking in.”
The other panelists built off their idea that the most important thing in a time of struggle is to spread love and check in. “Any movement really has to be founded in love. It can’t be founded in the hate for white people , because that ain’t gonna get you anywhere,” said Blake Simons, a panelist whose family is full of activism, with many of whom are members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. “But if you love your people, your really gonna be willing to do anything for your people to achieve freedom,” said Simons, who is currently carrying out his family’s activism while being the co-director of the African American Student Development Office at UC Berkeley.
No revolutionary movement could ever have been successful without strong allies, but knowing how to be an effective ally and bring forth change in a compassionate way is often difficult. Spencer Pritchard, a BHS Student Teacher in training and the co-staff sponsor of the BHS BSU said, “Make sure you’re educating yourself. Make sure you understand what the black freedom movement is. Educate yourself on the history of the black freedom movement.” Simons not only believed that awareness is important, but that actually acting on the awareness is what brings change, “Ally is a verb; you gotta do something.” At the assembly, the panelists also explored the topic of black people getting reparations. Although black people have never received reparations for the long history of anti-black racism including slavery and Jim Crow, many people firmly believe they are well overdue. Pritchard said, “This isn’t a new concept, this isn’t something that hasn’t been done before, so I think it’s time for black people to get reparations.”
Simons agreed, but noted that “reparations are like admitting a form of guilt, and America can’t admit a form of guilt when they’re still killing black people everyday.”While still grappling with aspects of racism from the past and present, it is important to keep looking forward. Especially as Trump comes into power, AB said, “Love your friends and your family and don’t take any bullcrap. Don’t take racism anymore. Next time someone comes in your face and they’re clearly being racist, homophobic, sexist, anything; revolt!” The ASB speaker series assembly was on December 14, but the action and conversation persists. According to Oby, the assembly was held to inspire and motivate students to be active allies and make a difference in Black Lives Matter. As Simons said, “To free all people, you free black people, and that means all black people.”