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BBQ Club Disbands Due to Controversy

Illustration by Gina Ledor

The long-standing tradition and culture of Barbecue Club is finally coming to an end. The club, which has been around for over 20 years and sports personalized jerseys on Fridays, has been criticized for perpetuating a racist and misogynistic culture at Berkeley High School (BHS). While originally it began with an intent to raise money for charities through hosting real barbecues, the club has become branded with a reputation of racism, sexism, and promoting a sense of elitism among boys at BHS.

After years of its existence, the members of the club have decided to disband and action has been taken to address the harm done. Students, including some members of the club, have taken initiative to organize and facilitate restorative justice circles with this year’s members of BBQ Club and On Campus Intervention (OCI) officer Eddie Estrada. At BHS, restorative justice aims to address harm and misbehavior by creating a safe and inclusive environment. In addition, many of those who have been negatively affected by the club want members to understand and learn from their pain, rather than simply be reprimanded for it. While this is a step towards addressing the damage done, for many this is a sensitive issue that will take further effort to fix.

Royce Williams, a former member of the club, posted an apology over social media and was present at the first restorative justice circle held. “The restorative justice circles were very constructive,” said Williams. “Everyone, even the OCI officer, got to share out their perspective on the situation and everyone respectfully listened to each other.” Other members of the club agreed that the circles have generally led in a positive direction.

“It was a very potent and productive discussion to be able to hear firsthand from girls who are affected by actions from previous members of the club and feel unsafe and concerned about the preservation of the club this year despite any effort to rework and improve the club and its productivity,” said Senior Anthony Williams, a former member of the club.

Another member who wished to remain anonymous said that they “collectively decided to disband and denounce the club and discontinue the wearing of the jerseys at school in hope of creating a more safe and welcoming environment.”

Madison Lease, one of the co-presidents of the BHS Women’s Student Union (WSU), feels that restorative justice is important because members of the club “have surrounded themselves with people who haven’t had a negative experience with BBQ Club, so they are in positions where they can ignore their impact.” The restorative justice circles have also been effective in bringing the two sides together for respectful discussion. “The circles are important because these boys have heard the history but they don’t make the effort to see how their actions actually affect people,” said Lease. Estrada used his own experience in a college fraternity to relate with the members of the club.

There is speculation that the class of 2020 will reinstate the club. The WSU has made an effort to collect anonymous testimonies, in the form of letters, from girls at BHS to be read in future restorative justice circles, mainly for boys from the class of 2020.