The newly formed Black Student Alliance Club (BSAC) at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) had its first meeting on January 7. Founded by junior Emmett Favreau and sophomore Graysen Kirk, BSAC was created to provide a forum for the school community to address issues of systemic racism and inequality through discussion and social justice activities.
“I had been hoping to start something like [the BSAC] at school, because I feel like there’s a lack of education in general across the country and [Martha’s Vineyard] is not really an exception,” said Graysen. “It’s important to create a safe space for people of color in the schools and create a place where white people can be educated.”
Emmett said, “As we saw this summer, there definitely is a need for some sort of [student] group or initiative that goes on all the time to talk about issues that happen and are still happening. So I wanted to establish that.”
At the first club meeting of BSAC, members introduced themselves and talked about their reasons for joining. They then independently answered questions in a Google Form about their racial identity, and shared their interests in the club’s future plans. The meeting culminated with a discussion about the events at the Capitol.
Emmett first asked members, “Do you think that racism exists here [on the Island]? Do you feel safe here?” The majority of people said that although they experience racism on Martha’s Vineyard, it’s not common and they feel relatively safe.
Dhakir Warren, the administrator of student affairs and faculty advisor to BSAC, helped Emmett and Graysen start the club and spread awareness of it to the student body.
“There are issues of racism and discrimination that we need to address,” said Mr. Warren. “[BSAC] is a real opportunity for students to step up, take charge, and say we are not going to allow these things to percolate and perpetuate and we are going to move forward in the hopes that we create an environment that’s inclusive of everyone.”
Mr. Warren stressed the importance of enabling students with the opportunity to find, educate, and celebrate their identity: “[BSAC] is fundamentally about providing a safe space for students of color, who are in many cases are underrepresented, to engage in conversations and work while also engaging in advocacy efforts that promote equity, inclusion, and fuel cultural proficiency throughout our school community.”
Mr. Warren also emphasized eliciting participation from students from all demographics at MVRHS. “Getting engaged in this work is so important, and allyship stems from us coming together regardless of background, race, ethnicity, creed. It’s not just about black students,” he said. “Our Brazilian students, our West Indian students, anyone who feels underrepresented and culturally excluded. I hope more students of color take the opportunity to participate just once and join in this effort and come to the table to share in that experience, and that more white students come to the table to be advocates and allies.”
Senior Kaya Seiman joined the club on account of her friendship with Emmett and for the opportunity to discuss issues she is passionate about. “I wanted to become educated and hear from different perspectives. I really respect Graysen and Emmett. What they do for the Black community is incredible. I wanted to figure out more ways I can help,” she said.
For people who aren’t sure about joining, Graysen has a message: “I just want to say that everyone’s welcome and to not feel unsafe. We are trying to be hyper-sensitive to everybody’s perspectives, ideals, and everything. So if you just join with your camera off and listen to the meetings or email me before or send a chat to me saying what you want to be voiced in the club, that’s great. Come join and make a change.”