Berkeley High School students bring awareness to Black Lives Matter, school segregation

Berkeley High School
Sunny Shen/File

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With Berkeley’s long history of student activism, it is no surprise that the younger generation of Berkeley residents is working to mitigate intraschool segregation through community events and partnerships with local Black-owned businesses. 

Berkeley High School, or BHS, student leaders and juniors Shayla Avery, Hadassah Zenor-Davis, Ultraviolet Schneider-Dwyer and Zephyr Zoidis are launching a youth-focused initiative to promote racial justice in education and bring local attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. The initiative currently involves three projects: an ongoing partnership with Black-owned businesses in Berkeley, a youth-led protest and a community mural at BHS’s Florence Schwimley Little Theater.

“We are standing in solidarity with lives like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many others,” Schneider-Dwyer said. “But we are also advocating for change in our own community.”

Zoidis is leading efforts to offer discounts to participants at local Black-owned businesses.

The project aims to reduce the local racial wealth gap by promoting and incentivizing BHS students and families to shop at Black-owned businesses.

“Right now, we’re rolling out our first partnership with A Girl Named Pinky in Downtown Berkeley,” Zoidis said. “We’re going to have a lot more in the future and make it more convenient for (people) to purchase from Black-owned businesses.”

A Girl Named Pinky owner Tina Stevens joined the initiative after receiving an email last week about a partnership with Black businesses. Stevens added that her bakery will offer free delivery and 10% off to BHS students and families.

On June 9 at 4 p.m., students will also lead a procession from San Pablo Park to BHS.

The protest will call on BHS administration and the Berkeley Unified School District to address school segregation, provide anti-racist training for teachers, reduce police presence at BHS and expand BHS’s African American Studies curriculum.

“Teachers need to be taught how to talk about racism in their classes. We need more education about Black history and Black leaders in all grades,” Schneider-Dwyer said. “Showing our alliance with (Black students) is the most important thing we can do.”

The four students are also advocating for the installment of a community mural by student artists of color at BHS’s in-house theater this summer. Avery added that the mural will include portraits and a list of names of people whose lives have been “shaken” by police brutality.

The organizers said they want to have something to constantly remind students about racial injustice and they think the mural should be an ongoing remembrance project to support Black lives.

“We need young children to be educated on these things for the rest of their lives,” Schneider-Dwyer said.

Contact Aryia Dattamajumdar and Victoria Stafford at [email protected].

A previous version of this article misspelled Hadassah Zenor-Davis’ name.