Not just a club: Students discuss representation in clubs & media, as well as Black History Month
February 23, 2022
When Mateo Bedolla, senior, had first been approached to join IDEA, a district-wide group representing minority students, he was shocked that he had never heard about the presence of this before.
IDEA started this year, the goal for administrators, teachers, community members and students to gather together and address issues across the district. Though it is not a club, MHS has seen a rise in related identity-awareness clubs and organizations in recent years—GSA, BCC and JCC are only a few of the many. Each club has provided a resource for students, who reflect on the extent of what these clubs have provided for them in terms of representation.
“I honestly felt like I should use my voice,” Mateo said. “I felt like it was for a good cause (and) I didn’t even know what to expect from it. It definitely made me reflect on a lot of things and my involvement in a lot of clubs. When they asked me questions sometimes, I didn’t realize how much identity plays into so much of what I do.”
Though the reasoning behind starting each club is different, there is an underlying theme of representation. With Munster having a limited diverse population, many have formed these clubs in order to actively help students feel less alone, or to provide a distinct inclusive community.
“For me, if I was able to choose not to be transgender, I would without a doubt, but I don’t want to hide, and unfortunately, it’s just a part of me that stays even if I pray it would go,” Tayo Clark, senior and president of GSA, said. So I feel like it’s really important to have GSA in all schools to just have that little corner that says ‘hey, that part of you is okay,’ when so many parents and the world around us say it’s not. It’s just really important. 2021 had the most transgender deaths since we even began these statistics for trans people. Right now, we have the privilege and ability to freely explore our identities, and that is something that we shouldn’t be ridiculed for.”
The very presence of these clubs can hold significant benefits for student representation, such as with GSA. For incoming underclassmen, having these clubs in existence already has given them a feeling of belonging, according to Kameryn Hubbard, sophomore.
“(BCC) is like a safe place in our school, especially for black students,” Kameryn said. “I’m lucky that I got to come into school my freshman year, and we had something like that. (There’s) definitely (a lack of representation) especially in school…and there’s not much that we can personally do about it because I mean, we live in Munster, Indiana. There’s only so much we can do. But definitely in school, and I feel like having representation in our school makes us people of color feel so much better. It’s just so much easier to talk to and communicate with them and things like that.”
I thought (BCC) was a good opportunity to spread awareness about not only black issues but also issues concerning other groups of minorities. I feel it’s important especially in a school setting, just awareness and let people know what’s going on in the world.”
— Lauren Robinson, junior
Aside from clubs actively helping the student population representation in schools, representation in media also plays a big role on students. Whether it is an unquestioned stereotype repeated throughout television, or the classic role a particular character has to fill, growing up with representation can have a large impact on the comfort of students. Some students stated that they felt there was an adequate amount of representation in the media, especially in more recent years, but others are not satisfied.
“I do think that the media in the last decade has greatly progressed,” Lauren Robinson, junior and secretary of BCC, said. “But I still feel that the coming generations and coming groups of people or kids it’s very important to see people that think like you in the media, especially. Like (for) girls in high school, it’s a very developmental time and seeing people around you that are like you, that’s really important in growth and understanding. Not even just within your own community, but also representation of other communities to have a greater understanding of other people.”
Regarding representation, many students celebrating Black History Month have reflected on efforts both at MHS and in the media. Celebrating Black History Month takes many different shapes, whether or not it is educational, such as teaching the more uncomfortable parts of history, or providing a place of comfort for students. Many students recognize the lack of acknowledgement the school gives Black History Month, but on the other hand, students also recognize that black history is only discussed by schools or media outlets during the month. Akaoma Odeluga, junior, compares her time in Munster to growing up in a predominately African American school. According to her, the school did trivia on the first day and a big program at the end, as they were learning new things about Black History Month each day.
“We learned new things everyday about Black History Month implemented into the teaching, and that was elementary school,” Akaoma said. “And so you kind of see the difference between people who are the most affected what they are because they’re the majority of the school.”
This issue stems farther than surface level recognition of Black voices; it is also important to have a safe space outside of student made clubs, like Black Culture Club. While representation in both clubs and the media is crucial for students, many students agree that there is still much to be done outside of having these clubs. The burden of teaching students about Black History Month often falls on BCC, who does a bulk of the work. According to students, they’d like to see more integration with administration, or even a change in teaching.
“It’s like a language, if you start young, you get better and then you tend to be fluent. But if you start later, it’s harder to understand,” Akaoma said. “It mostly starts with just simple things like you could put up a sign. Putting more things up especially like this type this month is very critical to do things. Say random facts to show that these people are valued, that we see you, we’re here with you and we want to help spread your awareness.”