Seventeen-year-old Ariel Parker has looked beyond Instagram, Snapchat and “Juju On That Beat” and envisions being a leader one day.
The Fresno County teenager isn’t sure what type of leader she wants to be when she gets older, but the Clovis North High School senior sees a national landscape that features African-American students struggling in school, and black people being gunned down by the police, and wants there to be change.
Parker said if she and other young, black millennials feel a call to incite change, they should heed it—especially with cognizance of the injustices that take place.
“We are looking for opportunities to change things,” she said. “We are always talking about possibilities to bring awareness to situations like Black Lives Matter.”
Black Students of California United (BSCU) held three Senatorial District Leadership Forums this month, and will hold one more in November. BSCU envisions African-American youth receiving quality education, training, tools and experiences to become engaged participants in California’s civic and economic life.
Fresno County Office of Education Coordinator Angie Barfield, one of BSCU’s founders, said the three-month-old group’s forums are being held to bring youth leaders together to talk about issues they are experiencing and form solutions.
“Our black students are not satisfied with how things are in our schools, communities,” she said. “The idea of the forums is to talk these things out – student union issues, school district issues – and come up with plans to deliver back to their authority figures to progress things.”
Barfield, Dr. Angelo Williams, retired educator Jacky McFadden and California Alliance of African American Educators Founder, and Executive Director Debra Watkins founded BSCU in August. The group’s values include instilling excellence and self-determination, independence and perseverance, critical cultural consciousness and active mental and physical health maintenance habits and practices in black youth.
The idea for BSCU sprang from an African-American youth rally earlier this year, and since its beginnings the group has established links with African-American clubs and student unions in various parts of the state.
Williams said BSCU wants to teach black students about advocacy and civic engagement.
“Youth are facing significant challenges in education and economically, but they are organizing,” the college professor said of some black youth. “They are one of the most active groups that I have seen. The beautiful thing is these young people are fired up and ready to go.”
The Oct. 29 forums were held in Stockton, Sacramento and Fresno. The fourth event, Nov. 19, will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose.
The discussions on what is working right for black youth in their communities and schools and what is going wrong. There will be a guest speaker and a lunch.
Parker, the Clovis student who wants to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu or Baylor University in Texas, is a member of BSCU’s student advisory board and a forum attendee —along with student’s affiliated with the program from schools in Sacramento, San Jose, Stockton, Oakland and Los Angeles.
She said anything she learns at the event will be beneficial.
“It’s very important for black kids my age to want to be leaders because we are such a powerful people,” Parker said. “We have such influence in everything – music, art. Black people have so much power, so black kids should strive to be leaders in the community and eventually on the national level.”
Barfield said the African-American community can’t have excuses to address economic, education, and civic issues.
“We don’t want another generation of disengaged, uninformed youth,” she said. “We are going to allow the students to formulate their voices and go after elected officials and board members and let them know these kids have a voice and hear is your solution.”
Williams said in a year BSCU hopes to have expanded to more students across the state and have an annual civic engagement program running.
“We want to have students in the 40 Senatorial Districts across the state,” Williams said. “We are trying to produce future leaders. We want them to study those districts, so if they decide they want to be an official they are starting early in getting that knowledge.”
The student Parker said learning leadership is important and bringing her generation of black millennials together is a part of that.
“There seems to be a lot of division in our generation,” she said. “We need to come together.”
Around 60 students will be admitted to each event.
RSVP is required for the Senatorial District Leadership Forum in San Jose.. . Contact Watkins at 408-829-0590 to register.
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