Seeking Change: The Black Experience at North Atlanta


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Forward Toward Change: Seniors Avi Hunter and Bryia Simpson are leaders in North Atlanta’s Black Student Union. The BSU is seeking to address ongoing issues related to equality among all students in our high school.

The year 2020 has been a huge year for bringing awareness to certain issues America faces, with one of the biggest examples of this being racism and its ongoing prevalence almost 60 years after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have sparked massive protests across the country and opened up a greater conversation on how unequal minorities in America are and what needs to change. North Atlanta is a much smaller sample when referring to these national events but students have still reported experiencing racism on and off campus throughout their high school years.

The Instagram account @blackatnorthatlanta gives students a safe place to anonymously describe their experiences with racism and unfairness occurring throughout our very hallways. Their experiences are shocking, to say the least. A current senior said on the account, “I was in my teacher’s class and these white boys were talking about the black celebrities they would buy if slavery was legal again.”

A lot of posts on the Instagram page refer to African-American and other minority students dealing with academic inequality. A class of 2019 alum shared his experience with the account, saying, “My freshman year in one of my classes, my teacher was passing out our graded tests. She said if you passed you were on the ‘Buckhead side’ and if you failed you were on the ‘Bankhead side,’ which is a predominantly black neighborhood.”

It’s not just academic related incidents at our school, too. A North Atlanta alum shared on the account in reference to North Atlanta’s dance team, the Silver Stars, “They were incredible to watch and so talented, mostly black women. It honestly felt so validating when they represented us at football games. But a few white students had a habit of referring to them in derogatory terms. “I can’t think of any valid reason for this except that the Silver Stars were a group of young, confident, attractive black women enjoying themselves and showing school spirit.”

As a current senior pointed out in a post, one of the most noticeable cases of racism would be punishments like in-school suspension (ISS). The senior wrote, “My sophomore year, I noticed that the administrators were very biased on who they would give consequences to. Every time you walked into ISS  there were never any white kids, just minorities or people of color. It really shocked me because I can’t ever remember a time when there was a white student in ISS. However, countless times I’ve witnessed white students do things that were equally and/or even worse than the kids in ISS had done. I have witnessed administrators give white students a slap on the wrist for things like vaping in the restrooms or skipping class, whereas a Black or Latino student would get in serious trouble for that.”

With all these incidents occurring in our community, there has to be a solution. And solutions are exactly what the organization North Atlanta Black Student Union (BSU) is seeking during these times. The group of students focuses on its mission to confront equality issues at North Atlanta and to promote the Black experience at our school. “The way we are trying to spread awareness is through meetings where we talk about various subjects or issues in the black community,” said senior Payton Jones, BSU’s secretary.

North Atlanta’s BSU has only had one meeting so far into the 20-21 school year, but Jones said it was very productive. The meeting was in-person but met all required mask and social distancing requirements. It was an event focused on creating effective allies, and there were discussions about white privilege, white savior-ism, and on initiatives to spread awareness. BSU’s future meetings plan to focus on inequality in the criminal justice system, police reform, financial literacy in the black community, LGBTQ+ in the black community, and much more.

2020 has proven itself to be a year of change in our country and in terms of racial issues, protesters don’t plan on backing down anytime soon. “The protests are important because nothing is going to get better unless we actively work to make it better,” said senior Sophie Terraso. “Being complacent is not an option.”