By Avery Myers ’21
While the last few months in the United States have been characterized by political turmoil and the harsh effects of a global pandemic on civilian life, this chaos has helped bring individuals together to ignite change. Social media has become a space to combat the prevalent racial injustice in America and has given citizens, minors specifically, a chance to influence their followers and form bonds with others. Black Students Demanding Change!, also known as BSDC or @bsdcny on Instagram, is a youth organization that exemplifies the effectiveness of social media as a form of activism for racial justice.
The Instagram bio of BSDC states that the members are “Advocating for racially equitable and inclusive reform in our high schools and bringing voices to all BIPOC.” The organization is composed of representatives from different private high schools in New York City that are a part of the New York State Association of Independent Schools. These representatives have spent the past two months sending out detailed letters to their school administrators demanding the implementation of programs to promote racial inclusivity and genuine diversity amongst students, faculty, and administrators alike. While the representatives all crafted different letters to their individual administrations, the demands all fall under a common set of pillars: culture, accountability, representation, education, and support. These categories, known as CARES, shape BSDC and help to promote the idea of community amongst the organization rather than individual representatives reaching out to their schools.
Josie Helm ‘22, a student at the Brearley School, originally crafted the idea of bringing BIPOC students together with a common goal of igniting change in New York schools. She said, “The need for freeform is not unique to any one school—the time for change is now. We’re at a crossroads in an unprecedented moment; we want to inspire our schools to be on the right side of history by making lasting systemic change that will ultimately benefit all students.” All of the original representatives met together via zoom to fully flesh out the vision for BSDC. Kadyn Liburd ‘21, a representative from Poly Prep, spoke about all of the hard work behind the scenes that made the documents so effective. She said, “I spoke to a lot of different people in affinity groups at Poly and collected a list of grievances that I could transform into a set of real action steps.”
BSDC stands apart in the fight for racial justice because of how the organization’s goal is to reach out to administrations. Kadyn stated, “The main goal of the demands was to not only promote equity and inclusion, but to hold the schools accountable and prevent administrators from making broken promises regarding anti-racism work.” Kadyn and other representatives sought guidance from mentors and faculty members to make the documents as straightforward and meaningful as possible. Because of this hard work, ten of the schools have agreed to meet the demands of BSDC.
Aside from BSDC’s goal to create fundamental change in education, its social media platform allows all students to be involved in the process and celebrate all of its accomplishments. BSDC’s Instagram varies from informative posts regarding the silenced experiences of BIPOC students in New York City to consistent updates regarding the demands and how administrators are responding. BSDC is an organization that demonstrates the positive growth that can be made when students join together to speak up. BSDC is special in that it brings students together from different backgrounds and locations across New York with a common goal of anti-racism work. The growth occurring is no longer in just one private school but in many across the city.
However, BSDC, as an organization, is far from satisfied. Kadyn mentioned, “We are trying to expand to different states. All of the representatives crafted a letter inspired by the demands sent out to our respective schools that other students can use as a guide to make their own unique list of demands to their administrators. Our goal is to inspire students on a large scale to build anti-racism programs in their communities.” BSDC demonstrates the strength in numbers that is necessary to foster growth in regard to racial inclusivity. BSDC started as a group of high schoolers who wanted to make change and have created an inspiring platform that is catching the attention of students around the state and will hopefully have the same effect around the country. During a time of national unrest, BSDC has managed to create a space of strength and inspiration for the youth.