Photograph by Nina Smith
The Talented Tenth club at Berkeley High School (BHS) is one of the school’s most recent student organized groups. The club, which started in October, focuses on being a space for BHS’ black male students to connect with one another, learn about black history and culture, and gain leadership and life skills. “Our mission is raising up the young black men of Berkeley High, educating them, exposing them to stuff outside of campus and really enabling them to grow as young men,” said founder and president Jahlil Rahim, a senior in AC.
The Talented Tenth meets twice a week and engages in a range of activities including community service, lessons and discussions on different relevant topics, and guest speakers. The name Talented Tenth is in reference to a W. E. B. du Bois essay, which presents the idea that one in every ten black men can ride up and become leaders of their communities through furthering their own education.
They discuss topics such as professionalism and gender dynamics within the black community. Although some have questioned why the club is made up exclusively of male students, AMPS sophomore Andrew Mathews and AMPS senior Ayyub Love explained the importance of having an all-male space. “It’s a space for black men to feel safe and open about what they’re sharing,” said Love. “A lot of the time, with members of the opposite gender, you feel like you have to put on a facade, like you have to dilute what you are actually feelings. That’s why it’s really important to have a space of all black males.”
Mathews continued, explaining that the intention is not to exclude others: “It’s more around what we as black males need to do to support our sisters.” One notable guest speaker was Golden State Warriors player David West. West spoke to the club about the importance of respecting women. “When [West] came, he told us to rub our stomachs and asked us what we felt,” Love said. “Someone shouted out ‘belly button.’ [West] said, ‘that’s your connection to women. It reminds you that we all come from women.’”
However, there is a bittersweet element to the amount of excitement surrounding the Talented Tenth. Rahim said, “it is disappointing that the main reason why people have been attracted to [the Talented Tenth] is because they have never seen a group like this before.” Rahim said, “There hasn’t really been a support system for young black men, especially the ones who are misunderstood by their teachers, who have a lot of stuff going on at home.” Love commented that BHS often only talks about race in a reactionary way. “The only time that [BHS] talks about the bigger issues within society is when it happens to our school,” Love said. He recalled when a noose was found hanging on school grounds and a racist Instagram page circulated around BHS.
The Talented Tenth club aims to discuss issues, even when they are not top news stories and strives to continue fostering a supportive environment for BHS’s black male students.
“Our group truly has served as somewhere where you can truly express yourself and just vocalize how you feel,” Rahim said. “It’s been a beautiful thing — for black men to have that tool of brotherhood.”