Ms. Greta Powers
There’s a new club at CVU with the goal of addressing racism. It’s called Racial Alliance Committee, and is led by CVU’s Akuch Dau, Page Thibault, Katelyn Wong, and Prince Yodishembo.
The committee started holding official meetings a few weeks ago, and its main purpose is to raise awareness and educate others about race. Thibault says, “RAC is all about bringing race to the consciousness of CVU, because I think race goes unspoken about and it’s unaddressed in our curriculum as well as our CVU culture.”
Thibault’s purpose for the club is what initially sparked her intent for co-founding the committee. She states that last school year she felt very impassioned about recognizing Black History Month at CVU. She got some momentum with Adam Bunting and Rahn Fleming regarding education about race, and with that momentum she got students from Montpelier High School to come to CVU and give an assembly.
At that time there was an attempt at starting a Racial Alliance Committee at CVU, but according to Thibault, it didn’t work out so well due to a lack of leadership. This year, however, Thibault was determined to keep the ball rolling, and started up RAC for a fresh start.
Katelyn Wong joined the original group, who also provided a clear purpose for RAC. She expressed her feelings on how in today’s current political climate a lot of unacceptable things are happening that shouldn’t be allowed. “Our mission or movement is to talk about those things with people and to start the conversation because I think that when something is uncomfortable people laugh it off and [say] ‘Oh it doesn’t happen’. I think it’s OK to be uncomfortable with these things because they’re really hard.”
Thibault also addresses the importance of RAC in connection to the majority of white students at CVU. “CVU is a great social justice community but I think that race is often left out of the conversation. You could point that to [being] such a white school, such a white state, but I think regardless it’s really important to bring it up.” Thibault also emphasizes the importance of the club creating a safe space for those of color and anyone wanting to express their feelings about race.
As discussed on Vermont Public Radio’s Brave Little State, Vermont is, in fact, an overwhelmingly white state. (Even SNL has satirically commented on the abundance of white people in Vermont.) In one of RAC’s meetings, the group discussed ways in which to educate those at CVU about complex issues of racism in a place where knowledge about the issue can be scarce. The group discussed showing the Netflix documentary 13TH to students at CVU. The title 13TH applies to the 13th amendment which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The award-winning film, directed by Ava DuVernay, delves into racial history in America and also the disproportionate numbers of African Americans imprisoned in the country.
Locally, the film is relevant — Brave Little State also did a piece on the discrepancy between Vermont’s generally low incarceration rates but high incarceration rates of African Americans. These topics are complicated and difficult to discuss, which is why RAC feels it is so important to educate anyone and everyone about the issue in the community.
Wong wants people to know, “We’re not just a bunch of people complaining about things and not taking action. We understand issues and we want to spread change and we want to educate the CVU community.” The club has received both negative and positive support, with the positive outweighing the negative. Wong has described any negativity about RAC being from those scared of change: “We have the Black Lives Matter flag symbol on our posters and I think people just don’t like change and because we are such a white school people are like ‘Why is this happening? This doesn’t happen here.” However, the positive feedback has been strong from both teachers and students alike.
The Racial Alliance Committee meets every Wednesday at 7:45AM in the library classroom.