FSHA Black Student Union Black History Month assembly

From left to right, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy student mom Dr. Phyllis Mackey, Pasadena councilmember Jackie Robinson and FSHA student mom Carmen Mackey spoke to the student body during a Black History Month event sponsored by the Black Student Union at the La Cañada Flintridge school on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 27, 2014)

This school year marked a special time in history for the students of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, as a small contingent of women have formed the first Black Student Union at the high school.

The club was formed last fall to “promote and teach our fellow students about our unique heritage,” according to their mission statement.

“It means a lot — I’ve gone to private school my whole life, and to have a place that is not separating us, but uniting us toward each other so that we can be more united within the community, is really important,” said club President Vanessa Dennis, a senior at the school.

African American students at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy represent 2.6% of the student population in a city that has just 100 citizens of African American descent, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

The Black Student Union formed after the collection of young women approached Rosemary Johnston, FSHA’s vice president of Student Affairs, with the idea for a club. As a community of diversity, FSHA has a Multi-Cultural Club, an overarching club under which the new organization was approved.

“It gives us a shelter, a place where we can all come together — and share our issues and our problems. At the end of the day, we [the student body] have a lot of similar issues,” said Bryce Bakewell, a sophomore and head of activities for the Black Student Union.

On Wednesday, the hard work of the club members was put on display when their first assembly was held in the Student Activities Center, featuring three distinct speakers: Dr. Phyllis Cremer, associate vice president for Student Development at Woodbury University in Burbank; Jacque Robinson, vice mayor of Pasadena; and Carmen Mackey, mother of current freshman Denver Mackey and community services liaison for the Los Angeles Fire Department. The trio of women spoke about their struggles in the workforce and in life, speaking about the challenges of being discriminated against as a woman and as an African American.

The presentation of the speakers at a school assembly was meaningful both in relation to Black History Month in February and Woman’s Rights Month in March. The Tologs in attendance were given to a brief presentation of Black history in the United States, the importance of family and knowing your roots, and the lesson of how it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

FSHA senior Syndie Johnson, who serves as vice president of the Black Student Union, said her take away from Wednesday’s assembly was “To take advantage of what you’re given, not to do anything at 50 %.”

The assembly was originally planned to include Aja Brown, the youngest and first woman mayor of Compton, who was forced to reschedule her appearance due to travel issues. In March, students will meet with members of the administration to determine if the students wish to continue the organization and if so, what adjustments they seek to make.

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Michael Bruer
is a freelance writer.

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