Black Student Union Creates Safe Spaces with DESKS

Black+Student+Union+Co-President+Lwam+Mahari+leads+a+club+meeting.+The+BSU+meets+Wednesdays+at+3%3A15+in+room+2201.

Jakwan Hossain

Black Student Union Co-President Lwam Mahari leads a club meeting. The BSU meets Wednesdays at 3:15 in room 2201.

Bethel Hineshim, Contributing Writer

It’s safe to say that throughout my four years at CRLS, I have felt the most comfortable at the Black Student Union (BSU). While there are so many important components of what makes the BSU so special, I’m here to write about DESKS, and their importance at CRLS and in the world today.

What even are DESKS? As simple as it sounds, we sit in a big circle of chairs (or desks) and discuss topics in a non-intimidating environment. The BSU has held these seminars for several years now, consistently proving their popularity. The purpose of DESKS is to give students of color an opportunity to speak their minds freely. Not to be biased, but DESKS have been some of the most engaging conversations I’ve had as a student.

The purpose of DESKS is to give students of color an opportunity to speak their minds freely.”

This October, the BSU held multiple DESKS. For example, one had the topic: “Do We Love One Another–Black Women vs. Black Men,” a re-run on the DESKS from two years ago, which was very popular at the time. During this three hour discussion (which lasted much than predicted), there were many different opinions voiced; everyone had the chance to express their own perspective. DESKS topics are made to create discussion around difficult subjects–while we are comfortable with each other, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, which creates diversity in the discussions. For example, a couple of our members mentioned how even the title of the DESKS topic was rooted in how Black people tend to generalize themselves: less as individuals of their own experiences. This point led into conversations about how we promote love and fight for each other in the Black community.

Part of the reason why these discussions are so essential is that we choose what topic to discuss, whether it be recent, from the past, or even about our community in Cambridge. Focuses range from within the US to foreign affairs (such as the Haitain refugee crisis, a topic earlier this year), as well as broader conceptual questions about cultural appropriation, mental health, terminology and more. DESKS give students of color, who are too frequently spoken over, the chance to express their emotions about their experiences as with fellow students of color, without penalization. These conversations serve to empower students while teaching, listening to one another, and exploring the Black and person of color experience in and outside school.

These conversations serve to empower students while teaching, listening to one another, and exploring the Black and person of color experience in and outside school.”

BSU Secretary, Nasra Samater ’22 explained, “I like the safe space of BSU and having DESKS every week, despite the heavy topics, I feel comfortable explaining myself. It’s also a great space to educate yourself and others!” DESKS are a tradition that BSU members, including myself, will forever cherish, because they give us a safe space. Lwam Mahari ’22, BSU Co-President says, “BSU is a place where the people you meet there and the connections you make can last you years because they foundation they are built upon is coming from a real and genuine place.” Finally, I would like to give special shoutout to all of the past student leaders, advisors, and members who started and continued this cherished tradition.

Bethel Hineshim is a Co-President of the Black Student Union.

This article also appears in our October 2021 print edition.