Ian Masasabi, a sophomore at Bedford High School, said he only needed about an hour and a half to design a logo for the fledgling Black Student Union (BSU) at Bedford High School.
The design is composed of the flags of students’ lineage – North and South American, Asian, and African. Cape Verde. Togo. Brazil. Cameroon. U.S.A. There are close to 20.
“I never really counted them,” he said with a smile.
The BSU, now in its second year, “has embraced students of various backgrounds, and celebrated each other’s differences,” said Anna Septembre, the BHS counselor who serves as faculty advisor.
“The Black Student Union’s mission is to provide a positive safe space for BIPOC students (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to share their experiences, embrace cultural appreciation and diversity, and immerse themselves in their cultural identity,” Septembre explained.
Principal Heather Galante stressed that the group is “dedicated to promoting student voices and culturally enriching experiences that benefit the entire BHS community.”
Masasabi, who grew up in the Bedford schools, said his involvement with the group “helps with self-confidence and attitude, and reinforces the full experience of being Black.”
Septembre outlined some of the BSU’s accomplishments and activities this academic year:
- “A schoolwide remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr. through a spirit day, where students and faculty were asked to wear the shirts or black attire in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. The BSU made announcements leading up to and during the day to bring awareness to the celebration.”
- Members celebrated Mardi Gras and Black History Month with second graders at Davis School, “highlighting the importance of leadership in the community while also embracing holiday traditions with the students.” Galante observed, “As a principal, it has been rewarding to see the positive work of our BSU and their impact on younger students who see the beauty and power of black excellence celebrated.
- “The BSU explored different cultural foods through their ethnic holiday celebration and participation in the Black History Month cultural night, where they served soul food to the community and viewed the cultural performances.”
Galante also noted that “the BSU is committed to programming that provides mentor opportunities to elementary and middle school students.”
Septembre added, “This month, the BSU has plans to join the African American Literature class in attending the Black Boy: Literature to Life presentation at the Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford, to gain a better understanding of the effects of Jim Crow South as told by the author, Richard Wright.”
“The hope for the end of the school year is to continue the groups’ immersion in black history by exploring Boston’s African American Museum and Heritage Trail, as well as a service project.”
She noted that the group connects with Black alumni “who have shared their experiences as students of Bedford High School and how their educational and cultural backgrounds have shaped their development.”
They heard from two graduates of two different eras. Dr. Priscilla Douglas, Class of 1965, is an executive coach, author, and moderator. The author of two books, she was the first Black woman to serve in the commonwealth’s gubernatorial cabinet. Danae Bucci, Class of 2015, is a reporter for television station WCVB.
The BSU raised money at the recent community Black History Month celebration by selling shirts featuring Masasabi’s design and, on the back side, a statement about Black excellence as voted by the group.
“Black excellence celebrates the success of people in the Black community, despite the oppression that Black people face,” September explained. “Dr. Douglas and Ms. Bucci are representatives of this. The BSU represents this in their service to the community.”
BSU officers are Jayden Bien-Aime and Kai’Liyah LaBoy, co-presidents; Alynne Dandridge, secretary; and Emil Colon, treasurer.