The aftermath of racist incidents at Monte Vista and the surrounding community came to head in February as the Black Student Union got involved in promoting diversity.
On Jan. 21, members of Monte Vista’s Black Student Union (BSU) attended and spoke at a San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) board meeting to voice their concerns and advocate for change in response to the incidents that occurred in previous months and throughout the years.
The BSU is the most active minority club on Monte Vista’s campus with 53 members, according to senior and president of the BSU, Tana Zifoyda, who spoke at the board meeting. Her speech pushed for a change in how the district and staff handle and respond to such issues.
“Now my question for you all is: What is being done?” Zifoyda said. “Just a few months ago, I stood in front of the board and said that ‘Proper education needs to be implemented.’ And you all stood and nodded your heads. But has any progression occurred? Not at all.”
Zifoyda’s point was mentioned in multiple speeches made by other BSU members, including senior Jordan Scates, who continued with a solution to the aforementioned problems.
“We need to educate our students on race what it means to be a minority, what it means to identify as a minority, how certain words, terms, phrases, and media can be used to harm us,” Scates said. “I feel that there needs to be policies in place within the district policies that make minorities feel welcomed and provide an environment where we can all be one and equal with one another.”
Monte Vista has begun to implement ways to educate students on racism. At the winter rally on Feb. 7, sophomore Iziyah Robinson gave a speech about the use of the n-word.
“With one person calling me the n-word, you’re taking me back thousands of years,” Robinson said. “And not just me, but every single person in this room. Every single one. You make your community — the Monte Vista and Danville community — look like one that no one wants to see.”
Robinson proceeded to tell his story, one that detailed his experience being racially profiled. Although the rally was more serious than those in the past, it set the tone for the crucial shift in attitudes needed on and around the school campus.
“Despite our differences, we are all Monte Vista Mustangs,” Robinson said. “We can choose how this campus is looked at forever, but we will not accomplish our goal of changing if we do not understand that we are all equal. The day we understand that is the day we’re truly ready to change.”
Efforts to raise awareness to appear beyond the BSU. Leadership students have written a historical moment, quote or interesting fact for the daily bulletin to celebrate Black History Month, according to office manager Jodi McFarland. In addition, Monte Vista staff is reading a book called How to be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi and mentors Donte Clark and Keith Hawkins visit campus to engage students in conversation.
In January, principal Dr. Kevin Ahern, leadership teacher Tommy Greenless, several staff members and officers of clubs tied to representation began coordinating monthly affinity meetings to amplify campus culture to the school leadership program.
“I wanted to hear from students from a variety of backgrounds,” Ahern said. “Right now, our leadership is not representative of our student body and I really want that representation to broaden out.”
Ahern explained that Hawkins led a group activity with the students during the meeting on Feb. 6. The unity of diverse individuals was apparent.
“It is really inspiring to see how our groups are coming together,” Ahern said. “My thing is about empowering students [and] I just want to find ways for students to find that space so they can feel brave and safe.”
BSU vice president Sydney Wanguhu appreciates Monte Vista administration’s intentions to provide students of color a space to join with various clubs at the affinity meetings and gather with the BSU every Thursday to talk about racial issues at school or in the media.
“It allows us to speak unfiltered because I feel like we all need that safe space,” Wanguhu said. “We don’t have that a lot anymore — to say what you want to say and how you feel. Everyone deserves that and everyone needs to express themselves.”
As Monte Vista and SRVUSD continue to take on the systemic issue, students feel that there will always be work to do to improve the community.
“I ask that, as a collective group, we take steps to acknowledge and encourage the diversity that we have because we don’t have a lot,” Zifoyda said. “The goal is always to create more.”