Photo courtesy of Country Day Affinity Groups

Black Student Union and Glass Knife host poetry speakeasy, empower student voices

The Black Student Union (BSU) and The Glass Knife, Sacramento Country Day’s literary magazine, held a combined speakeasy in the Matthews Library on Feb. 7. Receiving snaps across the room after each poem, a mix of 12 students and teachers presented literary pieces written by renowned Black authors. 

BSU leaders senior Imani Cochran and junior Sundiata Dumisani along with Copy Editor of The Glass Knife junior Jordyn LaPlaca were the event’s three emcees. 

Before the speakeasy, the BSU and The Glass Knife selected a variety of poems and short stories for people to read. 

“We wanted the pieces to allow other people to be comfortable regardless of their own skin,” Cochran said. “Yes, we have struggles, but being Black includes experiencing happiness and sorrow just like anybody else.” 

For that reason, Cochran explained that the combined speakeasy was an inclusive alliance meeting rather than an affinity meeting, allowing everyone to participate regardless of their race.

According to LaPlaca, a vast majority of the pieces hand-selected by the BSU and The Glass Knife focused on freedom and empowerment. 

“A lot of our poems included works from different time periods. For example, some poems date back to the 1800s, and others were more recent,” LaPlaca said. 

As an emcee, LaPlaca wanted to reassure students that the speakeasy provided a safe space for everyone, partially due to the nervousness she felt during her first time presenting at the event. 

“I remember being too scared in my freshman year to speak because I thought I didn’t belong,” LaPlaca said. “But, in my sophomore year, Imani told me that they wanted to hear from everyone, so I wanted to enforce the same message this year.”

According to Rachelle Doyle, the BSU adviser and SCDS Director of Advancement, the BSU has organized this co-hosted speakeasy since the club’s founding in 2020. 

Prior to 2020, The Glass Knife had held speakeasies on their own, but BSU club founders Naomi Turnbull, ’20, and Jewel Turner, ’20, hosted the first-ever BSU speakeasy, Doyle said. 

Doyle said that part of the event’s purpose is to honor Black History Month, as every BSU speakeasy has been held in February.

“The other reason we host this event is because books and the media typically get information from one dominant voice,” Doyle said. “So, we just want to take a moment and acknowledge a lot of Black authors who write really beautiful poetry.” 

For Cochran, the event’s importance comes from the community aspect as well as the school-wide participation and environment. 

“In my three years participating in this speakeasy, I’ve always admired people for stepping out of their comfort zone,” Cochran said. “I’m also glad that there are people dedicated to continuing this event after I leave.”

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