Student leaders celebrate affinity spaces, call for more allyship

Seniors+Andrea+Ramirez%2C+Destiny+Morado+and+other+students+participate+in+a+baile+folkorico+lesson+led+by+senior+Anny+Rodriguez+during+an+Hermanas+Unidas+meeting.+This+meeting+was+open+to+all+of+the+Archer+community+and+featured+the+history+of+this+traditional+Mexican+dance.+Affinity+club+leaders+said+they+hope+to+see+more+student+allies+attending+their+open+club+meetings+to+support+and+learn.

Photo credit: Talia Geffen

Seniors Andrea Ramirez, Destiny Morado and other students participate in a baile folkorico lesson led by senior Anny Rodriguez during an Hermanas Unidas meeting. This meeting was open to all of the Archer community and featured the history of this traditional Mexican dance. Affinity club leaders said they hope to see more student allies attending their open club meetings to support and learn.

By Lizette Gonzalez, Senior Reporter

Senior Chidimma Nwafor’s first four months at Archer were filled with culture shock. For Nwafor, Archer was the first predominately white environment she had encountered. When she walked into her first Black Student Union meeting, she found a space where she said she felt welcomed. BSU became Nwafor’s favorite part of Archer.

“I wasn’t used to not seeing Black people,” Nwafor said. “Sitting in the classroom and being one of two, or even the only Black girl, was hard. Going to BSU made me realize there are other students here who not only look like me, but understand what I go through and this process. The first meeting was the most I’ve laughed at Archer because of the instant sense of comfortability I felt.”

Junior Karen Garcia is on the Executive Board of Hermanas Unidas, the Latinx affinity club at Archer. Similarly to Nwafor, Garcia said Hermanas Unidas allowed her to find a safe community at Archer that allowed her to grow throughout her high school journey.

“I experienced the need of wanting a stable community that would help and guide me throughout Archer,” Garcia said. “As a sixth grader, I felt really insecure, not confident and unaware of my abilities as a person and as a learner. I think Hermanas Unidas has helped me grow into someone who can be more independent and more self-assured.”

Garcia said Hermanas Unidas is looking forward to connecting with the greater Archer community. Although some meetings are only open to those who identify as Latinx or Hispanic, Hermanas Unidas offers meetings that are open to all. For Garcia, seeing allies come to meetings makes her feel supported by Archer’s predominately white student body.

“There is a certain responsibility that white people have to attend these meetings, and make sure they are in support of students of color in this community,” Garcia said. “There’s time where we can feel really busy or have a lot of things to do, so I understand the inability to attend meetings, but I think if you are looking for a way to show your support and tell us that you are here for us, you should come.

Affinity clubs value inclusivity. By coming to open meetings you are showing that you support us in our cultural experiences and understand that they are different than yours.”

— Karen Garcia ('23)

Nwafor is a BSU executive board member. She said it’s valuable that students who don’t identify as Black come to BSU’s open meetings to allies to learn and step out of their comfort zone.

“I think a lot of the times, white students in particular, are in a classroom where they always have someone who looks like them,” Nwafor said. “Putting yourself in a space where there’s people who don’t look like you or haven’t gone through the same life experiences as you, gives you the opportunity to learn from someone other than your teachers and your white peers. I personally feel [like] it’s a way for people to walk this world less ignorant about issues that may not directly pertain to them.”

This year, Archer has an affinity space for students who identify as multiracial or multicultural. Sophomore Malia Apor co-leads the Space for Exploring Multiracial Identities and said she hopes to see more awareness of this identity group at Archer.

I’m excited for SEMI to become a part of Archer, but what I want people to know is that it’s important to not only recognize people of color that identify with one group, but also who identify with two or more,” Apor said. “It’s even more people than you think. Our goal is to embrace being multicultural, multiethnic or multiracial and for everyone to have a space to talk about it and make it more known.” 

Sophomore Lily Dembo leads Archer’s Jewish Student Union and also hopes to see more allyship to the Jewish community from Archer students.

“There’s been a huge rise in antisemitism in the past year. It can be really scary knowing that you live in a world that hates you because of your religion,” Dembo said. “Allies should go to our meetings because Judaism isn’t all about religion; it’s also a culture. Learning about Jewish culture is really beautiful because there’s so many interesting things and practices that have to do with our culture.”

For senior Katelyn Chi, having the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union affinity space has helped her emerge as a leader and advocate for Asian students’ needs at Archer.

“The meetings that are only affinity have helped me connect, on a cultural level, with others in my culture. It’s important to have that safety that other people aren’t judging you for your culture,” Chi said. “I’ve been a part of APSU since I was in middle school, so it gave me a space where I saw other strong Asian students serve as role models for me. Being able to see them advocate and make change for us is really great.”

Exectuive Board member of Archer’s Gender Sexuality Alliance, Sadie Long (’24) said GSA has helped her figure out her own identity. She said she hopes Archer’s student body realizes the importance of going to open club meetings hosted by affinity leaders.

“Before I came to Archer, I was unsure of my own identity and of my own queerness,” Long said. “Seeing people who are super proud and open to having conversations and talking about their identity helped me get over a lot of internalized problems. It’s great to see the enthusiastic participation in affinity spaces, so it’s important that everyone at Archer takes the step to learn about identities they don’t share.”