In Bella Volz-Broughton’s experience, Black History Month was never really recognized at school while she was growing up. Now, as an Arcata High senior and president of the school’s Black Student Union, she and her peers in the BSU are educating their school about Black history themselves.

“I never celebrated Black History Month in school. The most that was ever done was just the simple mention that it was Black History Month,” Volz-Broughton said in a video posted to the AHS Black Student Union Instagram page. “I think BSU is doing a good job of making that change.”

That video is part of a Black History Month series of 10 lessons created by the AHS Black Student Union. The presentations come mostly from BSU students, but their advisor Shannon Kresge and Northern Humboldt Union School District board member Cedric Aaron chimed in for a couple of videos as well. From Black figures to white privilege to the school to prison pipeline, the speakers cover a lot of ground.

How systemic racism “affects the Black community is also really important because that’s not something that white people even have to think about,” Volz-Broughton told the Outpost. “We just want our school to be educated on that.”

Arcata High’s BSU is young; it started in 2018 when Volz-Broughton was a sophomore. In the beginning, administrative support was lacking and the club received backlash from some students, she said, but “it was very important for the Black students on campus to start having that place of community.”

Since then, the club’s agenda has expanded to include educating their peers and community — a goal that, in the past, has also been met with pushback, Volz-Broughton said. Last February, the BSU hosted a few 20-minute assemblies aimed to teach the school about Black History Month, but it took a lot of effort on the students’ part for the administration to approve the plan, Volz-Broughton said.

On the first day of those presentations, a group of students staged a pro-Donald Trump demonstration in the parking lot, which whipped up a flurry of controversy on campus. The Trump-supporting students told the Pepperbox, Arcata High’s student-run newspaper, that they didn’t know the first Black History Month assembly was scheduled for that day, but other students speculated that the timing seemed intentional.

In place of the in-person celebration the BSU hosted last year for Black History Month, they created the video lessons and posted them on Instagram throughout the month. This year they’ve received a lot of support from staff and the community, Volz-Broughton said. “Obviously, like, in-person a lot more [pushback] happens than online because people can kind of avoid it more,” she said. “We haven’t seen much hatred this year towards us, which is very nice.”

High school Black Student Unions around the county celebrated Black History Month in other ways. Fortuna High’s BSU also turned to Instagram with daily posts about Black figures and history. At McKinleyville High, students put together a calendar of daily events, which included videos, articles and activities educating on Black history and culture.

Luckily for Humboldt’s non-high school population, these quick AHS BSU lessons are available to all. Be sure to check them out and learn something new about Black history and culture if you haven’t already.