ETHS holds first Black Female Summit


Source: Evanston Township High School

ETHS senior Camille Allen introduces a keynote speaker for the school’s Black Female Summit held last week. This is the first year the school hosted the Black Female Summit, having debuted the Black Male Summit last year.

Elena Sucharetza, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Township High School hosted its first Black Female Summit last week to discuss the diverse experiences of its black female students following the debut of the Black Male Summit last year.

Nearly 1,000 students attended the Black Female Summit on Sept. 29 and the second Black Male Summit two days later as a part of ETHS’ Social Consciousness Series, a set of programming events aimed at deepening students’ understanding of issues that affect their school and community.

Following the Black Male Summit last year, ETHS junior Lauryn Poyser said many black female students approached school officials and requested they create a summit centered around the experiences of black women as well.

“We asked, ‘Where’s our summit?’” Poyser said. “We are both oppressed, we both need this for empowerment and we were told we would have one the next year.”

Both day-long events included informational sessions about issues of importance within the black community, poetry written by students on issues such as cultural appropriation and presentations from keynote speakers, Poyser said. Speakers included Chicago-born actor Harry Lennix, the Rev. Toby Sanders and author Phyllis Clark

ETHS senior Camille Allen, who is also the student representative for the District 202 school board, said the highlight of the female summit for her was being afforded the opportunity to introduce Clark at the beginning of the event.

“[Clark] talked about recognizing that we are beautiful — that black is beautiful,” Allen said. “… and that if we want things, we should go forward and seize opportunities because we are powerful and smart and strong and capable, despite what messaging we hear that tells us otherwise.”

Programming for the female summit centered around similar topics of women empowerment and intersections of sexuality, gender and race, Allen said. She said breakout sessions were named after famous black females such as civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot. Within those breakout sessions, students discussed topics ranging from self-esteem and communication to issues of race within black communities, she said.

Poyser said she already noticed a positive difference in relationships between black female students at ETHS following the summit.

“It was a unifying experience just to have all the black girls from the entire school in one area,” Poyser said. “I can see the differences while walking through the hallways — we treat each other in a more respectful manner.”

ETHS assistant superintendent and principal Marcus Campbell said the summits facilitate conversations about race that are necessary for students to build community and understand the perspectives of other students.

“The Black Female and Black Male Summits at ETHS have helped educators and community members recognize the challenges and triumphs that our students experience every day,” Campbell said in a news release.

Although ETHS seems to be an isolated community, the challenges black youth face are currently part of a public conversation on a national level, Allen said. She said the larger social consciousness series the summits were part of will continue to show students their experiences ought to be shared as part of a larger conversation about race relations and black identities.

“The reason the series exists is part of recognizing ETHS…is a reflection of what is happening in the nation,” Allen said. “The summits were places where students could talk about national events and about race on a large scale and be heard.”

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