Black Lives Matter at Bronx Science

Students at Bronx Science are mobilizing to make Bronx Science a safer and braver space for Black students in the midst of a historic moment in the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Edie Fine

Babou Gaye ’20, Juliet Daniel ’21, and Diana Campbell ’22 meet during a Zoom call. They are all part of the newly formed Anti-Racist Coalition that will be actively working to diversify curricula, to form a Student Diversity Committee and Racial Justice Board, and to work on restorative rather than disciplinary justice.

Spurred by the Black Lives Matter protests that began in response to the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and countless others, Bronx Science students have been mobilizing within and outside of school. Here is what a few students at the center of these efforts have to say about what it means to be Black at Bronx Science, and how they hope their activism will change the culture of our school and the world. 

Babou Gaye ’20: 

“My experience being Black at Bronx Science started before I even got to Bronx Science. I had an eye-opening conversation with the lone guidance counselor at my middle school. When I said “I want to go to Bronx Science,” she said there were barriers that make that virtually impossible for kids that look like me. My lack of academic opportunities, she said, made me least prepared for the test that would shape my future. For a 7th grader, that was a lot to hear. 

I went to the library and printed out practice tests. I was the embodiment of the Black person working twice as hard. When I got in, it felt like I’d “defeated racism” or something. But then I stepped onto the Bronx Science campus and saw few other students that looked like me. It was clear there was something much deeper going on. I spent the next four years making myself as White-presenting as possible. And I’ve worked toward making it so that others can have the amazing opportunities I’ve had without having to change the way they talk, their hair, or their clothes — without having  to conform to notions of Whiteness. 

Recently, to bring about this change, I’ve helped to facilitate Town Hall Zoom dialogues. In each, students confront their interactions with Anti-Blackness. In one, only Black students spoke — everybody else had to listen. Trevor Noah says the difference between America and South Africa is that in South Africa they aren’t afraid to talk about their past. Leaders in South Africa actually forced those conversations, especially in the classroom. We need to have our own conversations — about Jim Crow, slavery, the mistreatment and oppression of Blacks for the last 400 years. At Bronx Science, we are now talking about the modern-day implications of Anti-Blackness and the Black student experience. It’s not the same for everyone, but it’s all grounded in navigating the White supremacy that’s ingrained in our institutions and the educational system. We’re trying to advance perspective-guided change that leads to institutional changes so that students of color feel heard and safe. I hope that Bronx Science students will see and hear each other’s perspectives. The school has to use its capability to instill students with relevant knowledge, especially regarding Black American history. Students should know about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre. They should celebrate Black achievement and culture. 

I’m also doing work outside the school, mostly with Justice League NYC, organizing marches, town halls, and other events that educate people about anti-racism. And I use my music to attract people to the movement. I want my art to be constructive and productive. The crux of my song Chains, written with Arjun (Mazumdar ’21), is how all Anti-Black oppression is rooted in the bondage and kidnapping that started in 1619, and how that system has mutated but not disappeared. The hook is: “We went from chains on our feet to rocking chains round the neck.” I performed the song at a recent protest, speaking my truth to a huge crowd. It was crazy.

This moment offers the opportunity to shift the dynamic. Young people need to be demanders of that change.”

Juliet Daniel ’21:

“I want Non-Black people to educate themselves. Students and teachers need to be learning about the hierarchy of White supremacy and understand that Black people are and always have been at the bottom. I want people to acknowledge the privilege and complicity that comes with being Non-Black, and that they participate in the maintenance of this hierarchy. I want them to confront their participation in these systems, and do so on their own time, rather than through performative activism. I want people to use that privilege to make space for and elevate Black narratives, voices, and experiences. 

I’ve become motivated to be part of that change at Bronx Science. I’ve made my voice heard in the past few weeks by being a panelist for the Town Hall (organized by the S.O. and B.O.S.S. board). Our school needs to continue to listen to Black voices, beyond this moment in the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m helping to continue this work throughout the summer with the newly formed Anti-Racist Coalition where we will be implementing change such as diversifying curricula, forming a Student Diversity Committee and Racial Justice Board, developing consistent anti-racist training for teachers, and working on restorative rather than disciplinary justice. This should be a forever endeavor.”

Diana Campbell ’22:

“This movement has drawn me closer to my Blackness. I realized that it was my community crying; I learned to cry with them. Prior to this momentous time in Black Lives Matter history, my understanding of social responsibilities were heavily influenced by my Catholic parents and their political views. But, I’ve since taken the initiative to educate myself, and learned that to be anti-racist is to support policies that support and uphold Black people. One of the initiative that I’ve been working on is the Student Diversity Committee (SDC). This board, which is still in the planning stages, will consist of a group of students of color to listen to, as well as act upon, incidents of racial discrimination reported to the committee by other students. This is just one effort out of many to tackle Anti-Blackness and racism ingrained in our school systems.” 

Melody Moulton ’20:

“The recent resurgence of the BLM movement has provided us with an invaluable opportunity to change as a school. The constant killing of black people by police is not an isolated symptom of racism, but a part of an institutionalized system that manifests itself on the streets, in prisons, in hospitals, and in schools all over America. Non-Black students and teachers must take the time to reflect and to take accountability. There must be an entirely different environment, one marked by empathy, respect, and kindness for everyone. I helped to organize a series of Town Halls where teachers and Non-Black students listened to a panel of black students talking about their concerns. These efforts have already sparked important change and will continue to do so. I think these efforts have called people into necessary action.”

“This moment offers the opportunity to shift the dynamic. Young people need to be demanders of that change,” said Babou Gaye ’20.

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