In short film, Berkeley High students talk race, diversity

BHIS video
Shem Tekeste, one of the BIHS students featured in the short film Eraced made by BIHS junior Kian Broder Wang

Berkeley International High School (BIHS), one of Berkeley High’s small schools, held its senior graduation Friday. While the ceremony was upbeat and celebratory, some students on stage brought up sensitive issues relating to the lack of diversity within the learning community. Earlier that day, Kian Broder Wang, a junior in BIHS, submitted to Berkeleyside the short documentary below — scroll down to watch it — that covers similar ground by talking to students of color and teachers about their experience at BIHS.

The video is timely, as Berkeley High School is considering a proposal to redesign its schedule and classes with a view to addressing some of these issues. During a conversation with Berkeleyside, members of the Design Review Committee, including BHS principal Sam Pasarow, expressed concern that certain learning communities in BHS are not diverse. There are few African-American students in BIHS and few Caucasians in AMPS, the Academy of Medicine and Public Service, members of the committee said.

Asked why he decided to make the film, Broder Wang said: “During my first year in BIHS, the topic of race and diversity was not so apparent to me. However, as time passed and more people of color left BIHS, I began to realize just how racially homogenous and divided our learning environment was. Despite the obvious disparities, race and the lack of diversity in BIHS still felt like a largely ignored topic. After talking to my teachers and fellow friends of color, I became aware that the issue had to be addressed, especially during a time when conversations on race and racism were so prevalent at Berkeley High. I made Eraced so I could give a voice to those students of color enrolled in BIHS, as well as to spark a valuable discussion on the racial divisions within the small school.”

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for your local news? You can support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside Member. You can choose either a monthly payment or a one-time contribution.