Opening Up the Table

Over the month of February, members of the Black Student Coalition at St. Teresa’s have put together many different events to celebrate Black life and culture. While reflecting on the past month, students share how they work to enact change and conversation over important issues in their daily lives.

by Charlotte Malone, Photo Editor

Members of the Black Student Coalition spent February sharing Black History Month with the staff and students of St. Teresa’s. Activities consisted of a Black church service, a Greek step show, and a Black fashion and hair show.

While these events formally marked the celebration of BHM, student organizers hope discussions around race and equality will continue throughout the year. Senior and member of the BSC, Victoria Andrews, mentioned that one way to continue these conversations throughout the year is through a classroom setting.

 “I think there are definitely classes that support (curious conversations), like English and history,” Andrews said. “I know that the teachers do a good job of having books and curriculums based on important topics.” Andrews believes that the more students are able to talk about issues such as racism and homophobia, the greater ability students have to educate themselves.

Junior Amama Riaz also expressed the need for conversations like these to take place in daily life. 

“I feel like it’s important to avoid ignorance,” Riaz said. “The people who feel uncomfortable having these conversations come from a place of privilege and if you don’t acknowledge it, it leads to so much ignorance and misinformation.” 

Riaz feels that one of the best ways to have conversations with others is by initiating them yourself. 

“Don’t be uncomfortable with bringing up a conversation yourself,” Riaz said. “Sometimes you have to be the one to start it.”

Junior Ava Martinez seconds this, emphasizing the importance of patience in these discussions, as well as compassion. 

“As ignorant as someone might be, most of the time if they are trying to take part in these conversations they want to learn,” Martinez said. “They might have their own biases and preconceived notions that they haven’t been able to unpack yet, so even if they say really ignorant things, we have to keep in mind that maybe they were taught that way, and so we have to explain to them why that’s wrong so that they are able to learn.”

Martinez prioritizes open-mindedness and understanding when trying to educate themselves and others in conversations.  

All three students agree that one of the most important issues society has to discuss right now is race. Andrews believes in the importance of all people discussing racism. 

“Definitely Black issues and Black history need to be discussed,” Andrews said. “There are a lot of issues surrounding homophobia and transphobia as well right now.” Riaz seconds this, stating the need to discuss segregation in schools due to redlining. 

“Schools right now are still extremely segregated based on income,” Riaz said. “We’re a private school, and most people who go here are white, just due to generational wealth. But even in public schools, they’re extremely segregated because of public funding being based on property tax. So lower-income neighborhoods that have been redlined are going to have worse resources in their school leading to a higher dropout rate.”

Martinez adds to this conversation, bringing to light the effects of systemic racism. 

“I think that it’s just really important to talk about the way our society has systemic racism embedded into it, and how we all have privilege because of that,” Martinez said. ”Especially at St. Teresa’s, most of us here are very privileged. It’s so important to understand why we are privileged, where that privilege comes from, and use it in good ways as well as finding out how to further dismantle it as we go on in our lives.”

Riaz understands the lack of opportunities available for minors to enact change but suggests starting with volunteering in your surrounding community. “I’m a big fan of pushing mutual aid because just being active in your community is so important,” Riaz said.” I volunteer with KC Care which provides healthcare for low-income families. Being active in your community can be so much help.” Martinez adds that one of the most important things that anyone can do at any age is to always be kind. 

“I think now, the best thing we can really do is to be the best versions of ourselves,” Martinez said. “Be as kind as we can to other people, learn as much as we can about other people and other cultures, so we can appreciate people and lift them up.”