Racial Justice at Edmonds Woodway
By Alissa Berman
The Black Student Union (BSU) at Edmonds Woodway, led by Kira Augustamar, Adiam Woldu, Segen Berhane, LaShaiah Dickerson, Hermona Girmay, and Nathaniel Girmay, creates a community for black students. They meet every Monday from 2-3 in C203.
BSU was established in 2006. One of their original officers, Michael Richards, was an essential part of the formation of the club. He used to be one of the only black teachers at Edmonds Woodway, so five black students approached him and expressed the desire to begin a club. Together, they organized the school’s first student-run Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. Since Richards left, the club has changed and increased the work they do for the school, but their primary goal of having a community for black students has remained the same.
Today, BSU addresses issues such as police brutality and racism that impact students and the community daily. Adiam Woldu, a senior and one of the officers of the Black Student Union (BSU), says BSU educates the school through their organization of the Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly in January, along with the Black History Month Showcase. She added that “as of last year, we began hosting a Juneteenth Picnic, which celebrates the day that slavery was abolished.”
BSU’s meeting buzzed with activity as they prepared for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. Mwangi Payton, another member of the leadership team and a junior, loves working on the assembly. He said “everyone really cares about the work we’re doing and it helps bring us together by having us to work for a common goal.”
Sophomore Kira Augustamar joined BSU because “there was a lot of injustice regarding police brutality and [she] wanted someone who could relate to [her].” She believes the club did precisely that, through their discussions on the racism that impacts the community, and the required change. According to Ms. Augustamar, a big part of combating racism involves educating the rest of the school.
Even if students may not be aware of it, Ms. Woldu said “the black experience is a tired and frustrating one.” As Mwangi Payton pointed out, “BSU makes us more aware of the problems that aren’t really known to the majority of the student body.” To become more aware of those issues, BSU constantly questions themselves and others. Mr. Richards ensured that was set up as one of the tenements of BSU. He believes that only by continuously questioning what the right thing actually is or what the truth actually is can one improve.
As important as education and social justice are, BSU serves another, equally essential purpose: providing a community. That community is the reason BSU is so loved by its members. Ms. Augustomar mentioned they “uplift black people and provide a place where we can just be ourselves.” Only 6% of Edmonds Woodway is black so, according Ms. Woldu it is essential that someone fights for its black students and provides them with that sense of community.
One of the common misconceptions about BSU is that it is only for black people. According to Ms. Woldu, “BSU stands to serve the African Americans in our community, but it is inclusive and really anyone can join.” “We need white allies and we need allies in general,” as Ms. Augustamar said. When asked if having non-black students in the club detracted from that sense of community, Mr. Payton immediately shook his head. “I feel like it allows non-black students to be able to be a part of our community and understand what we do.”
BSU is the intersection of community and activism, culture and social justice. The members of BSU believe it does an invaluable service for the Edmonds Woodway community; it provides students with a home in the larger school community and it provides the rest of the school with education about race issues and what they can do to change it.