Thanks to Sophomore Ayana Johnson’s initiative, Torrey Pines High School (TPHS) has a Black Student Union (BSU). “Our main goal is to educate and bring awareness about Black culture, Black lives and Black issues, and to create leaders of the future. We want to create a safe space for people of color to come and have a unified club to where they don’t feel a difference within our school, even after I graduate,” Johnson said.
Del Mar and TPHS being predominantly white communities furthered the need for a Black Student Union. “I saw some diversity at Torrey Pines, but there wasn’t a supporting group where students could find kids who look like them. We’re not just a black student union, we have kids from all cultures, all races, all backgrounds. We want to bring a focus to Black issues and Black culture that may be overlooked in the school curriculum and that may not be taught in the right way,” Johnson said.
Johnson and the Vice President of the BSU, TPHS Sophomore Lia Turner, stress the importance of learning about Black achievements, inventions, and culture. “TPHS being predominantly white definitely increased the need for a BSU because many students just learn the history of Black people as slaves. They don’t learn about the accomplishments of Black people or what they’ve done before and after they were slaves. It is really important to educate more people so they’re not ignorant to this subject, as most are today,” Turner said.
Johnson and Turner understand that the club might make some individuals uncomfortable, but they believe it could be necessary to gain an appropriate education about Black culture and history. “Presenting during Student Connectedness time, there might have been white students who were super uncomfortable because they don’t want to admit their privilege or that there’s kids walking around Torrey Pines saying the N-word. We want people to get a little uncomfortable,” Johnson said.
While Johnson and Turner were worried about backlash, they felt supported by the TPHS staff and administration. “I thought we would struggle to create the BSU, because we have no Black teachers or Black staff, but our club advisor Mr. Collins, Mr. Ashby, and Principal Coppo were extremely supportive and supported us as Black students,” Johnson said.
With Johnson and Turner founding a BSU at a predominantly white school, they are educating and raising much needed awareness.