The cycle is familiar; every few months, everyone on social media will have a sudden passion for one issue or another and then forget about it soon after. Especially during the pandemic, people have engaged in several issues, starting in summer with Black Lives Matter, then Get Out the Vote with the election in November. More recently, the Stop AAPI Hate movement arose from a lot of racially-charged attacks against Asian Americans. Some of these movements have actually stuck, with many of them sparking new clubs and inspiring initiatives within old clubs at Berkeley High School (BHS). Now, with the arrival of the new school year, many of these clubs have big plans for activism in the wake of this pandemic.
The Women’s Student Union (WSU) is one of the activist and advocacy groups that has grown and evolved during quarantine. “We describe our mission in the club as creating a safe space for students to be themselves and have allies,” said Neva Zamil, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) and one of four leaders of the WSU. The Jacket spoke with her and co-leader Maize Cline, another AC senior.
In March of 2021, the WSU filed a lawsuit challenging the former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s 2020 Title IX regulations. This was following the walkouts in early 2020 against rape culture at BHS. During the pandemic, the WSU “organized a Title IX training, where … some of our lawyers ran a training on how to most effectively use Title IX to your benefit as a student.”
This year, the club will continue the lawsuit, along with short-term goals like beginning a self-defense class and making the tampon drive an annual event. “One of our huge goals for this year is reaching a wider audience. Obviously, we were limited by being virtual last year…we are hoping that with our projects this year we’re going to be able to reach a larger portion of the school,” Zamil said.
Anya Draves, a senior in AC, is the founder and co-president of the Zero Waste Club. She established it in 2020 along with Talulla Miller-Ross, also an AC senior. She said, “You see the wildfires raging in California and off the West Coast. That’s just one example of the many ways we’re feeling climate change, and it’s really starting to affect our world and affect the possibility of our futures.” The Zero Waste Club aims to combat this by bringing awareness to to the issue of plastic waste and its effect on the climate. “I decided to start a club at Berkeley High to educate students about ways they can make changes in their own lifestyle, to reduce the amount of waste that they produce,” said Draves. This year, Draves hopes to gather a larger membership in order to create greater engagement with the project the club has set up. Draves explained, “We’re creating a project called the meatless map, which is a guide to eating vegetarian and vegan for off-campus lunch, and we’re trying to campaign for meatless Mondays in the cafeteria.”
Another club with a mission is the Body Positivity Club, which functioned as a safe, inclusive space for students this past year, including Ava Murakami, a junior in AC who is now its co-president. “I chose body positivity because I had struggled a lot in the past with good body image … and I wanted to express that and talk about that in a place I felt like was safe,” Murakami said. Even during the pandemic, she described how the club and its leaders created a tight-knit community. In the new school year, Murakami added, “I want to focus on building a really strong community between people … and then from there we [are] able to build and talk about our feelings.”
The little post-its with quotes— “smile, you’re pretty” in the mirror or “thick thighs save lives” in the hallways — are something Murakami wants the body positivity club to bring back in person. “I [also] want to continue doing a lot of the creative, expressive art projects,” said Murakami. Draves, co-president of the Body Positivity Club, said, “[Body Positivity] is a social justice movement because [things like] diet culture are just another way of oppressing women and oppressing poor people and people of color… So, I would like to bring the social justice aspect of body positivity into the club.”
Amid climate change, police brutality, sexual harassment, wealth inequality, and COVID-19, along with many other pressing issues, it can sometimes feel like the world is falling apart. These student clubs at BHS, however, are here to make a difference and inspire students to turn fear and uncertainty into action.