23 Mar 2018

Grads Share Experiences With Students For Black History Month Project – Part Two

In early February, CHS student ministers serving on the diversity committee reached out to minority alumni and invited them to be part of a Black History Month project. These graduates agreed to participate in an email exchange, answering questions about their experiences at CHS with the hope that we could use what we learn to improve current student experiences.

The student ministers asked alumni to share memories about their activities and involvement at CHS, best experiences, greatest challenges, biggest adjustments and what helped them to be successful. The survey concluded with questions about how and when they encountered racism and racial insensitivity and how they would like to see CHS change in the future.

CHS senior and student minister Drake Brignac, expressed the group’s goal and motivation behind undertaking such an important and revealing project. “It is our deep desire that we, as students, can identify issues that have faced minority graduates in the past and address them today to promote diversity and acceptance for ourselves and our posterity.”

This project follows other school-wide efforts this year to address the challenges faced by minority students at CHS. Our big read – Under Our Skin, faculty formation opportunities including attending the People of Color Conference and a special visit from Dr. James Cook ‘68, have helped facilitate ongoing conversations regarding race and diversity on our campus and in our community.

CHS Principal Lisa Harvey expressed her appreciation to the student ministers and alumni who took part in this project. “I am grateful to our current students and alumni who participated in these conversations. I am particularly thankful that Campus Ministry and our student ministers have pursued this dialogue, and I look forward to future conversations that will allow our school to become a better sanctuary for all who enter here.”

We are very grateful for the honesty, thoughtfulness and candor of the following alumni who provided responses to our questions:

Terry Gray ’96, Gary Johnson ’04, Byron Washington ’06, Thomas Broussard ’07, Nicholas Fisher ’07, Henry Minor ’07, Jason Peters ’07, Alex Hurst ’08, Lonnie Lockett ’09, Marcus Thomas ’09, Brian Tucker ’12, Clarence Ellis ’13, Tyler Sparrow ’13, Todd Sterling ’15, LaMonth Williams ’15.

Over the next several weeks, we will post responses from the survey. Each week’s post will focus on a different question from the survey. This post focuses on the question:

What were some of the racial challenges you faced as a student at Catholic High School? 

  • There were some who looked at me and the other minority students simply because we looked different, but once the ice was broken, we were all much more similar than the outside world would allow us to think. (Sparrow)
  • I always felt watched and always had to watch what I did and how I did it. If I were to do something that didn’t align with the stereotypes, people would have various different reactions – some good, some bad. I think the most important thing for CHS to understand racial issues better, is to just have the conversation with students and have them actually understand where the pain and struggle derives. I find that most people, on either side, make assumptions about each other, but if we were to talk we would realize that we aren’t so different. (Tucker)
  • There is certainly a need to modify the culture so that it is more conducive for minority students. A culture that does not focus on the color of one’s skin as to associate with a stereotype, but to be more understanding of others’ situations and understand that a person is more than the outward appearance displayed. (Hurst)
  • Kids would think it was cool to act out things they perceived was black. It’s a lot of ignorance that existed based on stereotypes and lack of understanding of history. (Washington)

Next week’s post will focus on the question: What are some of your best memories as a student at CHS?