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Students come together in creative space to celebrate Black culture

Students lead initiative to create space to overcome anti-Blackness in academic settings held their first event last night at Kent District Library in Kentwood.
CBIS Student Members

CBIS Student Members /Mariah Kennedy

What to learn more about Centering Blackness in Schools?

Visit the CBIS FaceBook page for more information and future events.

CBIS Student Members

CBIS Student Members /Mariah Kennedy

CBIS (Centering Blackness In Schools) started out of East Kentwood High School, gathering two months ago, and through personal donations and a pop can drive, held their kickoff event, "Culture Night", this past Wednesday evening in the Kentwood branch of Kent District Library. Their aim was to make their presence known in the community. Culture Night acted as their first big event with plans to hold larger events in the future, especially during Black History month.

“They have already gotten a lot done with coming up with [this] because initially it was only an idea that came a month and half into the school year. I think it’s amazing they have already planned and funded an entire event in that sort of time so I think it could only go up from here,” says Taylor Sanchez, Assistant Debate Coach at East Kentwood High School.

With five founders and over 30 members, the event celebrated different black cultures through food and spoken word, with performances from Intellectual Writers and East Kentwood High School students.

“I am a varsity member of the East Kentwood Policy Debate Team and we do a lot of national conversation about racial and social injustices and I felt like I wanted to take the conversation to a new level, so I created Centering Blackness in Schools (CBIS),” says Abbigail Booker, one of five founders in Centering Blackness in Schools.

The Founders of CBIS recognize a disparity in how the staff at East Kentwood does not reflect the student population, so with the creation of this group, they hope to provide that space for all students.

“I want to connect other minority students, my friends, my family people who I see struggling in schools to safe activism but to also love themselves and their identity,” says Booker.

The efforts Varsity Debate team members place in their national competitions directly relates to the work they will encounter while developing CBIS.

“I can’t just sit there and talk to my teachers about delicious soul food, because they have no idea what I’m talking about. I was starting to struggle with how do I identify myself at school when I have a mixtures of identities, I realized I wasn’t the only person struggling with this,” says Booker.

As the debate season slows down and CBIS members have more time to focus, look forward to future cultural event nights. 

“I think that it’s important because a lot of times discussion about discrimination and discussions about violence or race become centered on how they affect people of color in general, but there’s not really a lot of public organizations that focus specifically on black issues, particularly in the school system,” says Sanchez

Brooks Welch recited Oratorical for Jack and Jill, a piece she wrote based of the theme, ‘The Power of We starts with Me’.

“I was really interested in what cultural appropriation was because that was a hot topic at the time, talking about how people cheapen people’s significantly cultural items and make it ‘cute’ to wear for fashion and that’s not ok,” says Welch. 

“We hope to hold another culture night and we really want to make Black History Month celebratory and show a lot of love and fun with that,” says Booker.

Centering Blackness in Schools is asking for community support as they move forward in developing their newly found group. Visit their FaceBook page for more information. 

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