People of Color United a safe space to be one’s ‘authentic self’

Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud, Monica Cage, Phoenix Ferreira Ford, and Khalila Lord-Arond, the POCU leadership team.Photo: Mary Custard

Students who are members of POCU (People of Color United) at ARHS, participate in one of the school’s most popular clubs and have formed a tight bond with their classmates. Though during in-person schooling about 75 students participated, there is still robust participation by 30 students during virtual learning.

“POCU is a safe place for students to come together and fight for social justice while creating lasting friendships with classmates,” said Monica Cage, current president and long-term member of POCU. There are no requirements to join the club; it is open to all students.

Due to the pandemic, POCU students haven’t been able to partake in the field trips they usually attend, such as historical movies, community activities, and occasionally educational trips such as the tour of the Boston State House last winter. 

“After many POCU students attended the Black Lives Matter protest this summer in the center of Amherst, students not involved in POCU began to realize how their classmates are directly affected by these social injustices,” said former president, and current member Mohamed Abdel-Maksoud.

Club meetings usually begin with announcements about the ARHS community as well as public news. Advisors Mary Custard and Liz Haygood then discuss upcoming events with members and help organize activities such as “a moment in black history” in the recent morning announcements. 

“POCU is committed to helping members in every way possible, whether it’s participating in community service or helping juniors prepare for the SAT, we give back to our students,” said Cage. 

This fall POCU wrote and sent more than 100 postcards to Georgia voters in support of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Members also led and spoke in anti-racism and BLM rallies this past summer. 

“What I love about being an advisor for POCU is being there for the students, providing a safe space and a space where they can be their authentic selves,” said Custard.

POCU currently meets every Tuesday at 3:15, on Zoom but will hopefully return to in-person meetings once the school doors open. Several seniors said they plan on participating in a similar club in college and hope to continue the legacy of POCU at ARHS. 

“I hope to see more underclassmen involved in POCU and can’t wait to come back and visit next year,” said both Cage and Abdel-Maksoud. 

Members of this club are hoping to make the most of their last few months before school ends and hope to reconnect with each other in person when we return to in-person learning this spring.

“POCU is a safe and informative place for students to come and stay up to date on real-world events while making a difference at ARHS,” said Abdel-Maksoud.