The growth of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 has motivated people of all skin colors to stand up for equality and enforce social change. Many activists attended a protest or two, others organized large rallies; some expressed their concerns and opinions on social media, and an impactful few have continued to bring awareness to the problem.
The latter is key to enforcing racial equity, but in relation to the thousands of Americans who contributed to this movement, hardly any have remained determined to defend the rights of people of color. Of this small population however, two equal rights activists live just beyond the MC walls, and have had a large influence over the entire Poway Unified School District.
This summer, Johns Hopkins University sophomore and 2019 Westview graduate, Nene Okolo, along with Westview junior, Ekene Okolo, created a social media platform in order to enforce racial equality and uncover the injustice that is occurring within the Poway Unified School District.
“On June 17, 2020, we created the instagram platform, ‘Black in PUSD’ as an outlet for students of color to share their experiences with racism in the Poway Unified School District,” the younger Okolo said. “We were originally inspired to start this project after having seen the nationwide protests regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement, and we thought it was a good idea to showcase the black experience in our own community.”
As Black Americans, the Okolo sisters have personally witnessed racial prejudice within San Diego and further acknowledge that they are not the only minorities who have. Instead of focusing solely on the black community and their experiences with racism, the Okolos decided to make their account accessible to all minority members who have felt the effects of racial descrimination within PUSD.
“This account was initially created for black students to express their encounters with racism in PUSD, but because black people comprise only 1.9% of the PUSD population, we decided that it was best to provide a safe space for other people of color to voice their experiences as well, and furthermore garner the attention of the school district,” the older sister said.
As of now, hundreds of different PUSD members have shared their stories with @blackinpusd. The racial-equity account has looked through every submitted experience, posting over 500 on their page. Some expose the racist comments made by teachers, others reveal discriminatory student behaviors that went unpunished, but all have brought further awareness to the issues of undeniable implicit bias and blatant racism negatively affecting each and every PUSD campus.
Although @blackinpusd started as a simple way to contribute to the Black Lives Matter Movement, it has since emerged as an important outlet for minority students, and the beginning of a racially equal community.
“Our primary goals were to shed light on the racism that often goes unnoticed in our school district, and to hold those who commit racist actions accountable. With our platform, we’ve not only been able to achieve these goals, but we’ve also been able to create a relationship with the district school board, and serve as a voice for people of color in our community,” the current Westview student said.
With their recently gained influence, the Okolo siblings took this movement one step further and changed the way racial diversity is viewed. By providing educational resources centered on the history of BIPOC, the sisters have created a way for the community to learn about the past and use historical mistakes for future reform.
“So far, we have been able to implement an ethnic studies class in all PUSD high schools projected to launch in the next year or so, and we have also created a website called Ethnucation.com that serves as a resource for teachers and students to learn about ethnic studies and racial justice. Our website includes interactive questions, videos, lesson plans for teachers, and extra resources for various racial/ethnic groups,” the eldest Okolo said. “Our goal in making this website was to make the often forgotten history of people of color easily accessible for people to learn about, and furthermore educate themselves on history beyond the Eurocentric lens.”
In just three months, the Okolo sisters have created lasting reform in the Poway School District. They have produced a safe space for people of color to share their experiences, changed the way race is approached both in school and society, and have propelled the community closer to impartiality. Although they have contributed a great deal to this equality development, the battle is not over. With reform closer than ever before, the Okolos encourage everyone to “keep on fighting.”