Club Central - Black Student Union

Series: Club Central | Story 4

The 2021-22 Illinois Report Card lists Hinsdale Central High School's student population at 2,490. Of those students, only 62 identified as Black.

Early this school year, three of those students approached their counselor, Gia Maniscalco, in hopes of starting an organization that would give Black students at Central a safe place to share experiences and build community. In December, they received approval to launch the Hinsdale Central Black Student Union.

"We felt it was very important," said senior Jason Yawe, vice president of the group. Juniors Kevin Osei-Badu and Adjovi Golo are co-presidents. Maniscalco and social worker Lillie Blackmon serve as faculty sponsors.

The Black Student Union was formed with a three-pronged mission in mind: to create an identity-based affinity group; to establish a safe space for Black students to discuss, share and build community; and to empower Black students. Through monthly meetings, schoolwide events and more, the group's founders said they hope to create a welcoming, comfortable place for themselves and their Black classmates.

All three founding members attended middle school at Westview Hills in Willowbrook, where Black students accounted for just over 8 percent of the population in 2021-22. While still a minority, that's four times the percentage of the Black population at Central.

Osei-Badu said it's common for him and other members of the Black Student Union to be the only Black student in any Central classroom.

"You feel like you're standing out, like you're different," he said.

That, the co-founders said, can result in a tendency to conform behaviors to match the rest of the class. The Black Student Union, they explained, offers a place where students can just be themselves, with no pressure to fit in.

Golo pointed to a specific example in which she, rather than risk offending someone or drawing further attention to herself, would allow curious classmates to touch her hair. Now, she feels empowered to say no.

"I'm not being rude by telling someone not to touch my hair," she said.

Since the December approval, the group has held two meetings, including an initial meet-and-greet attended by 41 students. They've also made plans to celebrate Black History Month by playing music by Black artists during passing periods each Friday in February.

Later this month, all members of the Central community will be invited to pledge their support during a "hands of justice" event during which handprints will be left on a wall at the school.

The next meeting will involve a potluck of dishes to celebrate the diversity within the club's membership.

"Black doesn't come in just one culture," Blackmon said.

Plans for next year include a fashion show and a collaboration with the Black Student Union at Hinsdale South High School.

As a senior this year, co-founder Yawe won't be around to see the club's growth, but he hopes the work to start the group benefits Black students for many years to come.

"I hope that next year's freshmen come into this school knowing they have a group here to support them," he said.

But Maniscalco said she doesn't have to wait until next year to see the group's impact.

"As an observer, I'm watching the empowerment grow," she said.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean