The May BSU Walkout
BY KÉRA MATHEWS '24
On May 25, ABRHS students gathered at the front circle of the high school to listen to several members of the Black Student Union share their stories about being Black at AB. Donning matching black attire to represent unity and solidarity, members carried signs calling for change with messages like “No Justice, No Peace” and “We Demand Change Now.” According to the Black Student Union’s Instagram, the purpose of this gathering was to recognize the murders of Black victims in Buffalo, New York, as well as “to call out AB’s administration for their unjust negligence of Black students at this school.”
The walkout began with a word from co-leader Zainab Garelnabi ’22. She first called for a moment of silence to mourn the recent victims of the Buffalo supermarket shooting on May 14 and then opened the floor to three of her fellow members to share their experiences living and learning at AB. These members expressed the importance of creating diversity, equity, and inclusion in the community—a contrast to discriminatory practices found on multiple occasions in the district.
The first to give a speech was Zachary Olayiwole ’22, who spoke about double standards in policy enforcement towards himself versus a white student. Olayiwole described an incident where he had been suspended after being wrongfully accused of possessing a gun on school premises. Later, he heard that a white student had threatened another individual’s parents with gun violence but had not faced administrative punishment. “Change happens when you open up your mind to understand the gravity of your words and actions,” he said, emphasizing the importance of unity and empathy.
Next was Mayenli Comfort ’23. She described how school has affected her growth as an individual ever since her early childhood. After growing up in a racist Indiana school system, Mayenli felt that AB’s emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion offered a community where she could feel safe. However, with countless hate incidents against Black community members both in and out of the administrative eye, she now “[has] to walk these halls with people that [she feels] afraid of. If we are truly a community that is dedicated to creat[ing] a safe environment for all students, then we should act like it,” she explained.
To conclude the speeches, Rahma Garelnabi ’24 spoke about her struggles with social acceptance when she moved to AB. Over time, she confronted increasingly aggressive instances of racism—including frequent microaggressions—hearing slurs hurled at friends in school hallways and seeing Black students suffer the consequences of false accusations.
In an effort to counteract the covert and overt racism she faced, Rahma attempted to assimilate and “stopped being [her]self just so [she] could be accepted.” She continued with her speech by talking about the ever-present mistreatment of Black people and Black culture, not only in the microcosm of AB, but in society at large. “We no longer want to deal with people who want to appropriate our culture but never try to understand our struggles,” she vocalized.
The event ended with the Black Student Union holding up their posters and repeating the phrase, “We belong here too,” emphasizing the importance of creating and maintaining an inclusive school community for all.
As the new school year begins, Black Student Union speakers shared their hopes for the school year, highlighting the importance of an audience willing to listen to Black voices. Rahma believes that “feeling like our opinions are valued will really allow [Black] students to feel comfortable. [I’d also like to see] that admin is putting in effort and taking the next step to see our requests become [a] reality.”
Mayenli explained her views on the school for taking more proactive measures to support Black students: “I don’t want students to always have the burden of telling admin what needs to be done and how to do it.” Rahma agreed, expressing that “[she hopes] that our school will strengthen their responses to incidents of hate, discrimination, or bias.”