The African American Culture Club is the most recent of three culture clubs at HPHS, the first two being Asian and Hispanic. While these groups may be new to Highland Park, culture clubs and affinity groups have been in schools since the 1980s. Also known as racial/ethnic affinity groups, culture clubs are organizations that provide a space for students of the same social groups to interact with each other.
Why do we need these clubs? Seniors Ozioma Odikanwa, a member of the African American Culture Club, and Jessie Li, a member of the Asian Culture Club, took this opportunity to speak about their respective backgrounds.
What kind of students do these clubs attract?
Ozi: It is welcome to all students, regardless of their race.
Jessie: Mostly Asian students, though there are more students of other races this year as our club is growing.
What kind of activities do you guys do?
Ozi: We're planning on doing fundraisers like potlucks and movie nights. We also hold discussion meetings to talk about our issues.
Jessie: We do mostly cultural-related activities. In club meetings, we’ll talk about recent Asian holidays or about cultural aspects like games or music.
Why are these clubs important?
Ozi: They provide a safe space for African American students to discuss their experiences with racism. The club plans to address instances of racism in the schools and support our Black students to spread information about Black culture beyond slavery and the civil rights movement, which seem to be the only thing we talk about in our history classes. We wanna talk about food, clothing, and different celebrations in our cultures.
Jessie: I think these clubs are important for building a sense of community and raising awareness about topics affecting that community. The less ignorant we are, the more capable we are of sympathy and understanding, and the more willing we are to reach out and help one another.
What does the African American/Asian Culture Club mean to you personally?
Ozi: It gave me a space where I could talk about these issues, and it lets me talk about my own culture. There's not a lot of representation of Nigerian culture in the school and I wanted a place where I could share the elements of it that are important to me.
Jessie: Personally, it’s a way to talk about my own culture and share aspects of it that are often overlooked or forgotten. It is also a chance to learn about cultures I don’t know anything about or only about stereotypes. It’s also great to have a shared community where we can relate to each other.
These groups aren’t just exclusive to race or ethnicity either. SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Alliance) is a group with similar goals to the others that focuses on the experiences of queer students. The women’s issues club is made to support and uplift female students. Overall, Highland Park High School has many organizations made for aiding marginalized students and helping them oppose discrimination in the school.