Two years ago, When Makayla Miller was a sophomore, she found herself in a heated debate about race as part of an InFocus segment on former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem.
Miller said she was invited on the show to represent Black Scholars United, and as a person of color, she said she could understand Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
However, Miller said as she expressed her opinions, she began to feel targeted and felt like the others on the panel dismissed her ideas and talked over her.
Now a senior, Miller said she and her peers of color still have to go the extra mile to be heard on campus. But through BSU, Miller said she has found an on-campus community to where she can receive and offer support.
Miller, the BSU president, said students in the club have developed a sense of unity and work together to help each other grow.
“On the surface, BSU is what it sounds like: a community of African and African American students on a campus where we are a minority,” Miller said. “But underneath, BSU is really a place where we are not a minority, and we can speak our truths and connect with one another on a deeper level.”
For senior Moyo Ayo-Ogunyemi, who has been a member of the club for three years, BSU has been the place that has allowed her to accept who she is.
“The club has shown me and taught me things I never knew about my ancestors,” said Ayo-Ogunyemi. “It taught me to embrace my skin color and make a difference where there needs to be one.”
During February, which is Black History Month, the club shared different aspects of black culture with the rest of the student body.
The club met every Wednesday on the quad with music, and an array of activities including African jewelry making, taste testing cultural foods, fashion, art history, music and dance, and a remembrance of ancestors.
Miller said BSU will host an after-school Black History Month production today, where African and African American students will come together and showcase their talents and knowledge, such as dancing, singing and spoken word in a comfortable space.
BSU also has added a step team extension this year that performed at events for BHM in and around Palo Alto, and will also perform at Paly basketball games.
“Black History Month is one month out of the 12 in a year that African and African American people celebrate all of the greatness that is their history and culture, and be able to share it and use it as an educational tool with those around them who may have a different ethnic background,” Miller said.
Miller said this month can be used as an educational tool for those who may have a different ethnic background, shining a light on black cultural perspectives.
“For black people, it’s important and empowering to look back into history and remember all the great things that our people did to give us the life that we are able to live now, and to also teach younger black people who don’t know their history,” Miller said. “For non-black people, I think it’s important for them to remember just how much black people had to endure in the past and learn from that and understand why things are the way they are today and how to help become part of the solution.”
Junior Oluwatunwumi Ogunlade, who transferred to Paly at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, said she hopes to share the importance of Black History Month with her classmates.
“Black History Month is very important because African Americans have been isolated and maltreated for years because of their skin color,” Ogunlade said. “Black History Month is a platform to show how important African Americans are and also celebrate them with all races putting our differences aside.”
Miller said nobody looks out for her like her family does, and BSU is her family.
“Before BSU I didn’t understand what community meant really because I didn’t have one,” Miller said. “Now that I do, I can go out in the world and do things, try and try again, and I know that when I fall I have people there for me who are going to help me get back on my feet and keep going.”