The Godwin Black Student Union (BSU) is an organization dedicated to creating a confident and connected African American student body that can contribute to the greater community through leadership, academic, and extracurricular success.
The BSU strives to build strong interracial relationships among the Godwin community and use ethnic identities as a tool to empower and understand peers.
“[Leigh] Dunavant, our principal, inspired me to help out because she acknowledged the need for this kind of support in the African American student community. We know that many students thrive when given the chance to make connections with peer groups, especially ethnic groups which contain people who share their same experiences,” said English teacher and BSU sponsor Terri King-Forbes.
Most importantly, however, according to King-Forbes, the organization is a smaller community of shared experience between African American students who can use one another as resources for social, emotional, and even academic support.
“[BSU] is a place I can relate to and trust. It gives me a platform to share and listen to opinions about being a Black person in society. Encouraging pride and comfort in one’s identity is the most important aspect of the organization,” said senior student member Fadekemi Adeleye.
Senior and fellow BSU member Princess Williams agrees. “I heard about BSU my junior year at Godwin through some friends. It was amazing because it was my first year at Godwin, and I felt like I hadn’t found my place. [BSU] is a place where I feel comfortable sharing my experiences and having those around me understand and relate,” said Williams.
Since last year, the organization has been heavily engaged in outreach within the local Godwin community, organizing a homecoming parade float and a “Turkeys for Teachers” event where students made treat gift bags for teachers.
The BSU has also focused on highlighting Black experiences, hosting events like “Hot Girl Fall” with discussions about beauty and academics. “There was a lot of anticipation for its event and no one was disappointed. We got to meet inspirational black women who made their own path. They gave us advice and treated all questions equally,” said Adeleye.
According to the student members, events like these showcase an important aspect of the organization.
“Speaking about one’s self or experience is harder without having a backbone. BSU supports its members so that they can be able to represent themselves in the Godwin community,” said Adeleye.
Williams also agrees; “Godwin isn’t that diverse so with organizations like BSU, there’s a chance to hear from the minorities and have those students in their own safe space,” said Williams.
The BSU has also worked to promote African American cultural awareness within our school community. Last February for Black History Month, the organization held a school-wide discussion about how Godwin and Henrico County began to racially integrate students in the late 20th century.
“We found this great video that talked about the history of integration in Henrico County and then we had teachers like [English teacher and Journalism sponsor Chip] Carter and others speak about their own experiences dealing with integration in their lifetimes. So it was really just a nice dialogue to have as a larger community about race,” said King-Forbes.
Black History Month this year, however, looked a little different. According to King-Forbes, the month has always been a time of celebration in the Black community; though COVID restrictions have hindered the BSU’s abilities to host in-person celebrations, the organization still tried to connect as a community.
“Aside from our virtual meetings, we celebrated by providing daily recognition of Black excellence through postings on Schoology. Also, we had the opportunity to participate in the newly formed Henrico County Black Student Union’s game night as well as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) panel,” said King-Forbes.
The organization also works heavily with the Godwin administration to further their mission.
“We have the full support of administration, including [Dunavant] who has been very instrumental in its success, and especially [Vice Principal] Carl Torrence who provides daily leadership in our BSU and the larger Henrico Black Student Union community. This success we have had so far is indicative of the support from our wonderful administration,” said King-Forbes.
Looking ahead, the BSU is excited for organizing new events and building new connections in the future.
“Our organization has great potential to grow into a group which fosters positive interracial connections and relationships within the larger Godwin student body. We look forward to being a vehicle which will be able to facilitate whole school activities that promote African American cultural awareness,” said King-Forbes.