Following the civil rights uprisings of summer 2020, students at Carrboro High School formed the Black and Brown Student Coalition. The Daily Tar Heel talked with two members of BBSC, Julian Taylor and Phoenix Tudryn, about what the coalition is doing now and their most recent podcast series for Black History Month, where students answered questions about Black Lives Matter.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
The Daily Tar Heel: What has the impact been like since you distributed the first podcast?
Julian Taylor: I could definitely tell that after our first podcast at the beginning of the year, teachers became more lenient in grading. Not in a bad way, but in a way that gives students who have other responsibilities more time to get their work in, which is important. We did discuss quotes from the podcast in advisory, and I can say firsthand that in my advisory, we had in-depth discussions that had never really been had before. Within the past week, our podcasts have been incorporated into the UNC School of Education curriculum for a couple of professors, so that’s been nice.
DTH: Can you tell me more about the most recent podcast that you did?
JT: I think we had about 10 to 15 students from around Chapel Hill and Durham and some from Raleigh. A couple of the questions are more broad about how they feel about the Black Lives Matter movement. The rest of them are directed for teachers and educators, asking how their teachers can better support them in a school setting.
Phoenix Tudryn: There’s a couple of questions that talked about addressing systemic racism in school settings. It’s something that can apply outside the classroom as well, because I know it’s something as a community that we’ve been struggling with. How do we address systemic racism and actually have conversations about it? That’s something the podcast could be used for — to inform those conversations and to help those move about in the community and the classroom.
DTH: What is it like for both of you to be student leaders?
JT: It’s definitely difficult to be a leader in a virtual world, but I think a lot of times, students don’t need to come to us. I think our only advice is that you should just go do it.
PT: I think leading in a virtual setting is more leading by example. We’ve seen groups at Chapel Hill and East (Chapel Hill) pop up since we founded BBSC. Even recently at Carrboro, we’ve seen freshmen stand up and send angry emails to administration about things they’ve seen in classes that’s unacceptable.
DTH: You both mentioned that everything is virtual, so how do you communicate with each other?
JT: The podcast is actually pretty easy for us. We send out an email to everyone who we think would want to participate, saying you can send in a clip, it’s completely optional and you’ll be anonymous. So they just take a video of them talking and then we take the audio from that video. It’s not really a conversation, it’s just one kid speaking their truth at a time. So then we put those together.
PT: We’ve utilized the virtual setting to meet weekly with our group, so we have BBSC meetings every Thursday at 11 a.m. We always have a topic that we talk about and we have specific things that we want to work towards. So it could be the podcast or the forum (where students can recommend people for AP courses so they can feel more comfortable). So we’ll always have a goal in the meetings and we can get good turnout. It’s usually 10 to 20 people.
DTH: How much has it grown since the summer?
PT: It’s a really small community, so we have a tight-knit group of students, so we know everybody. The kids that went to or are in Wake County and Durham County went to CHCCS at one point, so they’re kind of looking back at our district. As we grow more and more, it’ll probably be something that we utilize our social media for, because we do have an Instagram.
DTH: What is your hope for the future of BBSC and the podcast?
JT: We’d like to do a podcast about how students feel about SROs (school resource officers) in schools, because I know there’s a decision being made about that in a couple of months. We’d like to do one for Women’s History Month with women of color speaking. We’d also like to do one for students who work because we know that teachers have a tough time giving leniency and supporting students who have jobs during the day. Then we’d also like to do one with alumni and students talking and sort of seeing how our school has changed.
PT: We have a lot of underclassmen that are really proactive in the work we’ve been doing. A hope of ours is that the district that we work with institutionalizes a lot of the work that we’ve been doing. A lot are pretty straightforward things like making a pipeline from ESL straight to AP classrooms.
DTH: Is there anything else you want to say about your podcast and your group that you think is really important for people outside of the school system to know?
JT: I think it’s important for anyone in the community to listen to these podcasts and know what the youth in their community think about these issues, especially the Black youth. I also think that teachers from anywhere can listen to this podcast and if it applies to them, it’ll help them reflect on their role and supporting their Black students.
PT: I would just continue to stress that this podcast doesn’t really have limitations when it comes to who it could affect. Stakeholders in any community, it’s really important that they listen to a podcast like this because it’s just raw reflections of Black youth in Chapelboro. So making sure that reaches out to wide audiences is important to not only us, but the youth that are speaking.
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