Change Starts with Conversations

As she was walking home from school, Camille Clay heard racial taunts aimed at her. Unfortunately for Clay, this type of behavior was nothing new. At school, kids made fun of her black skin tone.

“I came back home from swim practice and saw the N-word spray painted on my garage,” Clay said.  

These instances led to Clay to move to Stevenson High School, where she found a much more accepting environment in the school’s Black Association of Stevenson Students club.

B.A.S.S. works to spread racial awareness amongst the school community. The club advocates against racial discrimination and celebrates black culture. Many of its members have encountered racial discrimination and are working to help educate others as well.

Even though Stevenson is far more racially diverse than Clay’s previous school, black students are still heavily a minority at Stevenson.  

In Stevenson High School’s 2018 School Snapshot, only 1.9% of students are black. This figure is below the amount of white, Asian, and Hispanic students at the school.

Stevenson gives a voice to all of these minorities. There are a large variety of clubs for these minority students, such as Chinese Club and Indian Student Association. All of these clubs showcase culture and discuss important topics such as racial discrimination, and welcome students from all races to join.

At first Irving Montes de Oca, who is not of black descent, was afraid to intrude on the safe space of black people. After attending a few meetings, he found a welcoming community at B.A.S.S. and has continued to participate in the club ever since.

“I would say that my experience is very much different as I cannot relate to the hardships, challenges, or even obstacles that black people face on a day to day basis,” Montes de Oca said.

Clay has continued to participate in B.A.S.S. because of the acceptive community as well. She joined the club because it gave her an opportunity to finally be able to celebrate her culture and identity with her peers. This year, as a sophomore, she had the opportunity to be chosen as an executive board (e-board) member for B.A.S.S.

B.A.S.S. member Irving de Montes Oca (Photo courtesy of Irving Montes de Oca)

“I became an e-board member because I wanted to move the group in a more positive direction and if I was able to control things, I could get other people’s voices across,” Clay said. 

She currently serves as secretary of B.A.S.S.

This year, she has been able to organize events in B.A.S.S such as the club’s performance at the World’s Fair. The group performed a step dance and wore traditional African attire.

“I am Latino and I can definitely say that there is a lot of deep rooted racism within the Hispanic community against black people,” Montes de Oca said. “Yet, I wanted to be better than that and wanted to learn more about the hardships many black people face to avoid having these thoughts that many Latinos have.”

Because Clay and Montes de Oca, along with many other club members, have encountered different racial backgrounds, they are able to bring different perspectives to the table. For them and other members, B.A.S.S. is a forum at Stevenson High School to have important racial conservations. Clubs like B.A.S.S. can be created by high schoolers all over the country, and involve them in their own conservations about culture and discrimination.

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