“Black Excellence Understood” Brings Newfound Representation

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“Black Excellence Understood” Brings Newfound Representation

Be.U. founder Kirsten McManus presents ideas for International Night during a morning meeting. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

Be.U. founder Kirsten McManus presents ideas for International Night during a morning meeting. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

Be.U. founder Kirsten McManus presents ideas for International Night during a morning meeting. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

Be.U. founder Kirsten McManus presents ideas for International Night during a morning meeting. Photo by Iris Tsouris.

Iris Tsouris, Staff writer

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On Tuesday, October 30, students gathered in the classroom of English teacher Yasmin Anderson to attend the first meeting of Black Excellence Understood, or Be.U., a new club at Chamblee founded by junior Kirsten McManus.

During the introductory meeting, McManus and Anderson, the teacher sponsor, welcomed prospective members and informed them of what the club would aim to do for the Chamblee community.

“The club is for [students] to come in and […] celebrate the idea of being black,” said Anderson. “They can come and express themselves and have discussions about issues they see happening outside and inside of school.”

Incidentally, clubs celebrating African American culture are not uncommon in schools and colleges across America. In fact, CCHS had a very successful and influential one as well in the past, but it later dissolved. In some ways, Be.U. is a revival of that club, but it will also aim to bring something new to Chamblee’s community.

“We were talking about having different HBCUs come in,” said Anderson. “An HBCU is a historic black college or university. It’s an area that is underrepresented in the school. When you have college visits, you typically do not have people from those colleges coming in and talking to students.”

Along with HBCU visits, Be.U. will offer opportunities for speakers in the community to come in during club meetings and have conversations with club members. Field trips, movie nights, cultural festivals, and Chamblee’s upcoming International Night on November 16 are among some of the other events on the club’s agenda.  

“We’re going to be part of International Night,” said McManus. “People who want to be a part of it can just show up to help with our food table and the dance performance there.”

Another event that McManus has in mind is Black History Month. She expressed that the Black History Bingo game that has been hosted during February in the past has not been effective in representing and spreading awareness about the black community.

To focus more on improving this aspect of Black History Month at CCHS, McManus is planning to host performances in the auditorium and in social studies classrooms, which will include historical reenactments, open mic poetry, and traditional music.

But McManus did not just start Be.U. with Black History Month in mind. Her motivations for starting the club came from a place of dissatisfaction with the lack of representation of the African American community at Chamblee.  

“As a black person, I felt like we were very just pushed to the side. We were not represented at all,” said McManus. “The Hispanic and Latino community had two clubs, and we didn’t even have one… It was frustrating for me.”

To future Be.U. members and those considering joining, McManus wants to communicate the welcoming and accepting platform that Be.U. will create.

“It’s a great way for people to come together and realize ‘oh, we are going through the same things,’” said McManus. “A lot of people in our race are going through the same things and to be able to express that is what I wanted this club to be about and also for people of other races to learn and get questions that they may have answered.”

Despite its focus on black culture, Be.U. is not a club that is limited to only a certain demographic.

“Be.U. is not just a club that’s based on black people,” said Anderson. “We want everyone to come and to learn, and I think that that will help to give [students] that form to be able to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable asking somewhere else and to be embraced rather than being pushed away.”

Club meetings are typically held on Tuesday afternoons until around 4 pm, but this is subject to variation. To be notified about meetings, McManus suggests contacting her or Anderson to receive access to the club’s remind system. The next meeting will most likely be scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on November 27.

“[Future club members] should look forward to having a great time, as well as learning and being able to understand black culture,” said McManus. “Just be excited and open-minded.”