Annual BSA dinner celebrates Black History Month, student excellence

Executive board members and parent volunteers set up the tables before the February 20th Black History Month dinner. Sophomore Teja Davis said she was looking forward to the event. “It’s really nice to connect with other black students at the school and talk about cultural problems that others can relate to,” Davis added. Photo by Aryav Bothra.

On Thursday evening, February 20th, BSA (Black Student Association) hosted a night full of games, socializing, and food in the community room. Club members, families, as well as community members, attended the eagerly-awaited event that strived to celebrate the progress that African-Americans have made and recognize student excellence.

As the seats began to fill and the chatter started to die down, the event began with sophomore Teja Davis singing the Black Anthem: “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” 

Davis said that the dinner symbolizes all the hardships and progress that African Americans have gone through and that she felt honored to sing the anthem to open the event. 

“The dinner is supposed to represent how far we have come as a people and all of the things we have accomplished but also to acknowledge that there is still work to do. So while we celebrate, we should still plan what to do in the future,” Davis added. “The song [is important because] it’s a song that is supposed to talk about the struggles we’ve faced and where we’re going.”

Executive board members took the chance to thank everyone for making it to the dinner and recognized the various organizations and people that gave their support and help towards making an event like this possible.

Junior Vice President Nyla Rayford said that being able to help organize this event makes her proud to be an active member of BSA.

“BSA spoke to me because I could find a community where I felt safe because there were certain situations that I was stuck in and I didn’t know who to talk to,” Rayford added.

After the opening remarks concluded, it was time for dinner. Soul food — an integral staple of African American cuisine — consisting of fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese was served over the course of the evening. 

Spanish teacher Paisley Suarez said that she grew up eating soul food, and it’s one of the main nostalgic memories she remembers from her childhood. 

“I think [soul food] has such a rich history. It’s comforting. When you eat certain things it takes you back to certain lived experiences that might have been favorable … and it can definitely bring families together,” Suarez added. 

“It’s important for us to be educated and aware of [issues like these] especially since we’re surrounded by other things and people that don’t necessarily represent us.”

— junior Mariam Smith

One of the night’s main events included playing Black Jeopardy: a traditional game of Jeopardy with a focus on African-American artists, actors, and producers. The game brought on a whole host of laughs, smiles, and memories that proved to make it a memorable and exciting experience. 

Freshman Caden Boulrece said that he appreciated the Jeopardy game and found it a fun way to recognize African-American achievements. 

“I joined BSA about two months ago and I really like it … The Jeopardy was cool and it’s nice to always know the history and get a refresh while having fun with others,” Boulrece said. 

The dinner aimed to not only recognize African-American achievements in history — through games like Jeopardy — but contextualize that theme of progress and success within the club by recognizing student excellence. 

Seniors Troi Howell and Jayna Dias both featured their artwork at the dinner. Howell’s piece depicted an African Muslim and strived to bring awareness to the diversity within the African-American community that many overlook and promote the acceptance of others. Dias’ piece, actually a collection of paintings, entitled “Not my Nude,” depicted a Black woman wearing multiple items of nude clothing including bandages, underwear, and ballet shoes. Her artistry encapsulates the struggle that African-American women face in matching nude items with their skin because society doesn’t actively accommodate darker skin tones. 

Senior Jayna Dias’ artwork — entitled “Not my Nude” — displays the struggle black women face in matching nude clothing items to their skin tone. Junior Nyla Rayford said she appreciated Dias’ artwork because it sheds light on an overlooked issue. “I like how they inspired others by using different colors to show what they believe in,” Rayford added.

Junior Mariam Smith said that she appreciated Howell and Dias for showcasing issues that society doesn’t always talk about and do so in such an artistic manner.  

“I think they were very well thought out pieces and it was great of them to show and explain to us a different side to our culture. It’s important for us to be educated and aware of [issues like these] especially since we’re surrounded by other things and people that don’t necessarily represent us [African-Americans],” Smith said. 

The display of student achievement and talent continued with sophomore Will Sampah performing a step dance routine that featured an engaging mix of stomping, clapping, and various other hand movements. Smith and Rayford both said they really enjoyed  Sampah’s performance and commended his courage for performing alone. 

Through events such as this Black History Month dinner, BSA offers students and community members a welcoming community that they feel they can truly belong to and celebrate. As the night came to a close, it became evident that BSA holds a truly irreplaceable position in students’ lives.

BSA sponsor Dianna Palumbo said that she assumed the role of sponsor after some of her students requested her to and she felt like she could give them a voice to express their feelings. 

“BSA is a club that celebrates black excellence and promotes positivity and … as much as I hope that every single class throughout a student’s day celebrates their culture, I don’t think that’s always done,” Palumbo added. “So I think clubs like this are important for students to see and connect with like-minded people and celebrate their culture.” 

Kisha Lipscomb, mother of sophomore Erik Lipscomb, said that BSA offers students a look into black history that the curriculum neglects and encourages them to positively contribute to society, which has been extremely helpful for her son Erik.

“We moved out here from a more diverse community into a less diverse community so I believe for him to be able to join a group and just anchor himself and just be himself has been positive,” Lipscomb added. 

Aryav Bothra is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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