A Lasting Impact


Julia Roeschenthaler, Editor in Chief

Upper St. Clair High School’s Black Student Union was founded in 2019 by 2020 graduate Rebekah Chikuni. BSU, which is run by Mr. Cephus Moore and Ms. Daniela Buccilli, has a goal rooted in students’ desires to learn more about culture and history as well as the experiences of their fellow members and individuals in general. Although the club has only been in existence for about two years, they have already accomplished a number of goals, and have set out to achieve even more in the near future. 

In 2019, BSU partnered with an organization titled Students for Intercultural Awareness (SIA) as well as the No Place For Hate club to organize a number of activities for Black History Month. These activities included discussions, Black History-themed Kahoots, and even an opportunity for students to take a literacy test mirroring those that African Americans were forced to take in order to vote in certain parts of the South during the time period of Jim Crow legislation. Regarding the literacy test, Mr. Moore, one of the club’s teacher representatives, stated that he felt as though the test “was very eye-opening for the students because it was very difficult.” Moore also remarked upon the fact that during Black History Month last year, pandemic-related restrictions were not yet in place, so it was easier to organize events. However, the BSU has still been successful in coordinating events this year despite Covid-19, as demonstrated by the plethora of activities implemented thus far.

This school year, the Black Student Union held a panel on historically black colleges and universities and also hosted an event in which professor Jean-Jacques Sene from Chatham University spoke about his experience as a Senegalese immigrant and his time spent living in Senegal, France, and the United States. The club also hosted a meeting with the first African American graduate of Upper St. Clair, Leatrice Thomas. At the meeting, Thomas, who later spoke at a seminar held on February 19th in honor of Black History Month, shared her experiences in the Upper St. Clair school district and beyond. BSU also organized an in-school field trip that included a seminar addressing the subject of fostering change through movements as well as a brainstorming session for Black History Month-related activities. The event also invited SIA, No Place for Hate, and a number of clubs at Thomas Jefferson High School, which is located in the West Jefferson Hills school district, to participate in not only the field trip, but the planning of future events as well. 

Most recently, the Black Student Union, coordinating with No Place for Hate and SIA, hosted a seminar in which Leatrice Thomas and Corporal Aaron J. Allen spoke about their experiences in their respective fields and lives. Thomas detailed her experience in Upper St. Clair and later in life, and Corporal Allen touched on his time as a state trooper and later an liaison officer in the Heritage Affairs Office of the Pennsylvania State Police, a department created to respond to hate crimes and address discrimination and bias in police forces and the community. The seminar was recorded and later broadcasted to the entire student body during two days of extended homeroom on February 25th and 26th. Students completed a reflection after viewing the event as well. 

The Black Student Union hopes to kickstart a number of future activities and continue to coordinate with organizations such as No Place For Hate, SIA, and Thomas Jefferson High School’s Multicultural Alliance (as well as other Thomas Jefferson High School organizations). The Black Student Union is also sponsoring a panel discussion scheduled for March, which will be led by people of color who are in the justice system, including Corporal Allen, an African American defense attorney, and several others. BSU hopes to schedule events for Women’s History Month (March) and National Poetry Month (April) as well. In the more distant future, Mr. Moore specifically mentioned the possibility of traveling to Washington D.C. to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture as well as the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and potentially Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Moore said that the goal of such a trip would be to “expose the students at the BSU and of the High School to more history and more culture so that they feel valued, seen, and safe.” Such a statement undoubtedly encapsulates not only the aims of such an experience, but the aims of Upper St. Clair’s Black Student Union as well.