Interview with the Black Student Union
Updated: Aug 18
Lina Chihoub ‘21 and Aleksandra Mondrzik ‘23
Last year, the unfortunate increase in incidents of racial injustice at Lawrence High School and nationwide served as an important wake-up call for our Lawrence community. As a result, a variety of new projects emerged to support minority communities and push for a more equitable learning environment. For example, recall the Black in Lawrence (@blackinlawrencenenj) page on Instagram that shared stories of discrimination last spring or the Current Events Forum that was hosted by The Lawrencian staff in June to amplify student opinions. However, another initiative you may not have heard of yet is LHS’s newly-created Black Student Union. Recently, we sat down with Laura-Simone Martin (‘23), one of the founders, to learn more about what the BSU does and how you can get involved!
Q: Tell us about yourself!
A: I am Laura-Simone Martin and a 10th grader at Lawrence High School. I am passionate about social justice and music. I am a class secretary, president of the Black Student Union, and historian for the LHS Tri-M Music Honors Society Club. I also participate in basketball, wind ensemble, orchestra, and jazz band. Lastly, I recently completed the 2020 NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles Jazz Ensemble.
Q: What is the Black Student Union?
A: The Black Student Union is a club where students of all races, genders, and grade levels can come together to have discussions regarding race and participate in community outreach/volunteer service activities. So far, we have 28 members, but we are actually looking for more. Our advisors are Jametta Clarke, Lisa Hall, and Ericka Smoots.
Q: Why did you create the Black Student Union?
A: Although Lawrenceville is relatively diverse compared to other schools, a lot of us grew up with mostly white friends in sports and classes. The BSU creates a comfortable space for Black students to engage with each other and spread awareness to the LHS student body and Lawrence community about issues important to us as well as our heritage.
Q: What activities have you already organized at the Black Student Union?
A: So far, the Black Student Union has already hosted the Martin Luther King Day Winter Clothing drive which was very successful. We ended up receiving almost 400 coats, which were donated to Turning Point United Methodist Church; the coats are currently being passed out to the homeless population in Trenton. Earlier in February, we held a Popcorn fundraiser to raise awareness for future community outreach activities and guest speakers. For Black History Month, we had a Virtual Black History Celebration in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Academy on February 28th. We also held a Zoom seminar series with various speakers like Greg Johnson (attorney), Darren Green (activist and educator), Maya Pacheco-Smith (LHS alum, Hampton University Senior), Aarin Michele Williams (Chief of Staff of the NJ Division of Civil Rights), and Emahunn Raheem Ali Campbell (Rutgers Law Student).
Q: What does Lawrence High School still need to do to work toward racial unity within the student body? What about Lawrenceville as a whole?
A: I think having more talks about microaggressions, macroaggressions, prejudice, and systemic racism as a whole would be more helpful. We are actively planning educational events at the Black Student Union for the community. I believe the discussions that make you uncomfortable are the most important to have if we want to see change. So, just having more Lawrence students willing to come out and participate in these educational events will leave a lasting positive impact on the Lawrence community.
Q: What can the school / other students do to support the Black Student Union?
A: We either have a donation drive or a fundraiser happening at least once a month. For example, we are currently collecting feminine hygiene kits in which you can drop off deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other feminine essentials at LHS from April 19 to May 7 between 7:30 AM and 6:00 PM. Students can also support the Black Student Union by following our instagram page @bsu.at.lawrence.
Especially with recent events like the trial of Derek Chauvin and the death of Daunte Wright, each member of LHS has a responsibility to advocate for a more inclusive student body. If you are interested in joining the Black Student Union, please email the President, Laura-Simone, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel free to message @bsu.at.lawrence on Instagram with any inquiries, ideas, or words of support!