For Chicanx/Latinx Heritage Month, the Berkeley High School (BHS) Latinx Unidos club is altering their yearly tradition by sending out a video showcasing Latinx culture to the entire high school.
The club aims to send the video out by the last week of Chicanx/Latinx heritage month, which is the third week of October. The video will act as a virtual substitute for the yearly assembly the club throws to honor Chicanx/Latinx culture and identity. Latinx-identifying students and community members have the opportunity to submit videos including dance, poems, songs, and other performances about what being Latinx means to them.
“We’re going to try to display the vibrant community in the best way that we can,” said senior Alejandro Menjivar, a co-president of the club.
In previous years, the assembly for Chicanx Latinx Heritage Month has focused on a wide variety of subjects involving the community. There is typically a video that explains differences between “Latinx,” “Hispanic,” and other identifying terms. Performers come to share parts of their culture to BHS students. Last year, Peruvian musicians visited BHS to play music, show their instruments, and talk about their cultural ancestry.
“Obviously we won’t be able to do that stuff this year, but we’re still going to try to create a great environment and promote Latinx Heritage Month the best we can,” Menjivar said.
Latinx Unidos has mostly been a student-run club since it was formed a few years ago as a combination of two pre-existing clubs, Chicano Latino United Voices (CLUV) and the Chicano Latino club. It uses a leadership model with multiple co-presidents, which, this year, are Alejandro Menjivar, Ximena Mandujano, and Gaby Perez. Claudia Gonzalez, Karen Zapata, Amanda Moreno, and Lety Amezcua work as staff advisors for the club and help with the logistical side of organizing the events and fundraisers that the club hosts.
“The club leaders are really big on wanting everybody to feel welcomed, and everyone to feel like part of a team, and have everyone share experiences and build community,” Gonzalez said. “We feel like it’s really good to have more collaboration, not so much of a hierarchy,” she explained.
This year, the club is trying to continue meetings over Zoom. They have been met with online issues that many clubs are facing right now, like adapting to a new meeting structure and having less attendees. Gonzalez noted that students are a lot busier this year while trying to adjust to distance learning, resulting in more difficulty scheduling meetings. She hopes that the club can still meet weekly or bi-weekly.
Quarantine has definitely thrown a wrench in the typical itinerary for Latinx Unidos leadership. Much of what makes Latinx Unidos special, like the sense of community, fundraisers, and events, have been cancelled.
Menjivar explained that Latinx Unidos plays a crucial role in uplifting Latinx and Chicanx voices, which sometimes get left out at BHS.
“I think because of the lack of diversity in some of the small learning communities, many conversations about race and similar issues go without Latinx voices being heard, either because they are few in numbers, or not comfortable speaking out,” Menjivar said. “I really think that there needs to be the promotion of more Latinx voices within the staff and faculty, and within the student body, so that they are better represented,” he explained.
Menjivar believes that BHS must make an effort to listen to Chicanx/Latinx voices in the school, because their stories are already out there. He explained that Latinx Unidos is trying to promote and uplift those voices.
Despite obstacles, the co-presidents are dedicated to honoring this month for Latinx and Chicanx students at BHS.
To join the Remind for Latinx Unidos and get more information on the club, including Zoom links, text “@bhsluc21” to 810-10. There is more information on the club’s Instagram account, @bhs.latinxunidos.