Colorful T-Shirts Unite Students During Black History Month


Photo courtesy of BeU.

BeU stands together in yellow for their Black History Month movement.

Catherine Cossaboom, Editor

The clothes are bright, the smiles are huge, and Chamblee’s BeU (Black Excellence Understood) club members are the start of it all. Throughout Black History Month, the club is hosting a weekly event each Wednesday for students to wear certain colors to show their pride and support of black history. Captain and founder junior Kirsten McManus says the event serves as an opportunity to raise awareness for African American culture.

“I wanted people to be included,” said McManus. “If they couldn’t come to my meetings, the Black Excellence Understood meetings, then they could still be a part of Black History Month and show they are in support of Black History Month by wearing a certain color. Most people have the colors anyway, so it would just be a great way to show you care and… that you are in support of Black History Month.”

Club sponsor and English teacher Ms. Yasmin Anderson also saw the benefits of this student-created concept.

“[The students] felt that it was an opportunity to showcase and bring more of an understanding and get people excited about Black History Month, so they wanted to do something different, so they just started to come about and throw out ideas of what they wanted to do,” said Anderson.

The colors, which were chosen to represent the Afro American flag, known as the Pan-African flag, will be worn on different days. Red was worn on February 6, black was worn on February 13, and green was worn on February 20. Anderson sees value in the symbolism behind the colors.

“It gives a push for the red, black and green that is associated with what you could say is the [Afro American] flag or the [Pan-African] flag,” said Anderson. “Each color symbolizes something different. The red is the shedding of the blood, the black is the people and the green is the land.”

Each week, there will be a photo shoot of those that participate.

“We are going to take pictures each week of people wearing [these colors] and we’ll put the pictures together to represent the flag,” said McManus.

There was also a kickoff on Friday, February 1, where students wore yellow.

“[Yellow] was to represent inspiration, unity, moving forward, being progressive and change [and] new vitality,” said McManus.

BeU has had to work overtime for Black History Month.

“In the past, [we met] about twice a month,” said Anderson. “But now that Black History Month is here, we’ve been doing a weekly meeting just to make sure we have everything together.”

Anderson sees the club as an opportunity for students to unite over the issues surrounding the African American community.

“It’s the club that came out of an idea from our founder, Kirsten McManus, who wanted to be able to have a place or have a spot for students to learn about, get educated about and talk about some of the issues in African American culture,” said Anderson.

McManus founded it to allow students to connect with their culture and be themselves.

“BeU is a place where students can be themselves. They can just ‘be you,’” said McManus. “I wanted a place where African American students can come and be able to talk about issues or topics that are pressing to them or even just talk about things that are delightful and that they appreciate about black culture.”

McManus also sees the benefits of the club for members of other races.

“[The club is] also for students of other races to come and understand us better and they can learn more about our culture instead of assuming things or going based off of what they hear or see in the news or social media,” said McManus. “So it’s really a learning experience, but also a more comfortable setting where we can just get to know each other better and just be happy and talk about black culture without it being a tense issue or shying away from the topic.”

Because of several events that BeU has had to prepare for, the club has had less time to focus on other aspects of its identity.

“Because [BeU] started so late in the year [in October], [club members] went directly into doing the culture fair and then Black History Month,” said Anderson. “We’ve just been trying to do things that associate with those instead of trying to figure out what our own identity is going to be and what we want to do.”

Despite a relatively abrupt start, BeU has many ideas for the future.

“We’d like to be able to have speakers to come in and just talk about different elements that are plaguing the African American community and… about the excitement of the great things that are happening within the African American culture,” said Anderson.

McManus is very excited about what the future holds.

“There are a couple things that we want to do but they haven’t been set in stone,” said McManus. “So we want to have a skate night sometime in March in the gym… We also want to go on field trips, like the Civil Rights Museum or the Martin Luther King Center. We also are planning on doing fundraisers to raise money so that we can get T-shirts made or even to go toward the field trips that we want to do.”

The club is also hosting some other events this month.

“Every week on Tuesdays, we are doing Trivia Tuesdays and on Fridays or this Thursday [February 14]  since we don’t have school on Friday, we’re doing Karaoke Fridays,” said McManus. “It’ll be during lunch, so everyone can be a part of it and interact.”

On Trivia Tuesdays, McManus tries to engage students during lunch with quizzes and prizes.

“I usually go to the microphone and I make an announcement that we’re doing trivia and we have candy prizes so whoever comes up to us first with the correct answer gets a prize,” said McManus. “We usually have three questions and they’re all different during each lunch, so people have a chance to get the answer.”

Karaoke Fridays are also a chance to spread awareness for black history.

“This Friday [February 8], we’ll start the first Karaoke Friday where kids are able to get up there and showcase their singing talents,” said Anderson. “[The event is] to shine a light on the club, Black History Month and to interact with the students and the school.”

There will also be a movie night next Friday. Anyone that wants to come is invited to attend.

“On the 22nd, we are having a movie night in the auditorium after school,” said McManus. “There will be food and drinks outside in the foyer area, so they can get snacks.”

As for the club itself, the message rings true and McManus is passionate about spreading it.

“BeU to me means being able to be oneself as an African American as well as being able to embrace who you are without anyone judging,” said McManus.