A Spotlight on the BSU

Garfield’s Black Student Union is back and is already making a difference.

Garfield High School’s Black Student Union (BSU) is back this year. After a year’s hiatus, due to challenges that many clubs and organizations faced in the wake of COVID-19, the BSU was restarted. Under new student leadership, the BSU has already been able to plan and complete multiple projects to benefit the greater Garfield Community and Central District.

Community leader and student activist, Naomi Kirori, a senior at Garfield, is this year’s new acting president. Garfield’s BSU “focuses on giving African American students the chance to learn more about Black Excellence, and helps them navigate being African American, specifically at their school and in their community,” Kirori said.

For Kirori, focusing on Black excellence is vital. “I think it’s important to show Black excellence and it’s so important to break the stigmas and stereotypes that are aligned with African Americans,” Kirori said. By stepping up in a leadership role within Garfield’s BSU, “I feel like I have the chance to give back, in my upbringing I was always taught to be able to give and also receive,” (Kirori said).

One of BSU’s main goals is connecting members to their school, neighborhoods, and city, “It definitely teaches us a lot of morals and gets us involved, not only with other Black students, but also in the community to advocate for issues that are racial and non-racial as well, just anything we feel like should be advocated for.” Kirori said.

A recent project that the BSU held was a food drive where all the food collected was donated to the Central Food Bank, which is just blocks from Garfield. The food drive gave members a chance “to give back, and have that connection to [their] community,” Kirori said.  The success of the event has already led the BSU in thinking about their next activities. “We plan on doing at least two more food drives because they were really beneficial to our community,” Kirori said.

Kirori also has other projects that she would like to do this year, such as getting involved with other BSUs in the area, including those at Franklin, Rainier Beach, and Cleveland. Black History Month and Juneteenth recognition and celebrations are also high up on her agenda. “I want to get the message out there about what Black History Month is and what it means to us,” Kirori said. “I would like to make sure that we voice Juneteenth and boost it up as much as Black History Month.” For the students involved in the BSU, this means planned activities to help commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States during the federally recognized holiday. 

Since this is the BSU’s first year back at Garfield in over a year, Kirori hopes that its influence in the Garfield community will grow over time. “ I want people to look at the BSU as community outreach, and somebody who stands up for people that are unheard and unseen, or that have situations that need to be highlighted. I want the BSU to have a voice here, I want us to be heard and I want them to be seen.,” Kirori said.

Recognition is vital to strengthening its influence in the community, “I want the rest of the school to know that the BSU is a club that’s interactive, innovative, and is focused on Black excellence, and also community outreach. That our focus is learning more about Black history and the importance of it because we’re not taught our rich history in history classes. I want them to know that the BSU focuses on African American growth and improvement, but that we are also mentors and supporters of the community around us,” Kirori said. 

BSU meets every Tuesday during lunch in room 105 and welcomes new members.