Over the summer of 2020, the country underwent a serious moment of introspection, as tragic episodes of racial injustice and excessive force sparked protests and calls for change. In Dallas, Thomas Philip ’22 and Rahul Gunukula ’22 watched the events unfold and decided to take action to further the conversation at St. Mark’s. The result is the Civil Rights Club. This student-led group facilitates healthy discussions about race, hosts guest speakers from the community, and takes positive steps to make our community better.
“Rahul and I founded the Civil Rights Club because we both believe that, even though we're kids, we can make a difference in our community,” said Thomas. “We were inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, which raised questions about the injustices people face in this country and asked the question of what we're doing about it.”
The Club has already welcomed several guest speakers to its meetings, including policymakers, public servants, and Black business owners. Several St. Mark’s alumni have also participated, including George Lewis ’00, Chief of the Public Integrity/Civil Rights Division at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Mr. Lewis spoke to the Club via Zoom about the challenges he and his team face in trying cases when the defendant is a sworn peace officer and in how jury perception and selection affects these trials.
The Club also met with Texas House District 100 Representative Jasmine Crockett, who asked the boys to draft proposals she could introduce in the upcoming legislative session. The Club drafted several bills that would improve police interactions, address qualified immunity, and limit the acceptable use of deadly force. The opening summary of the proposal reads: “As a Club, we want to address the issue of police reform, specifically making interactions between civilians and police officers more peaceful and less stressful.”
“This Club is especially important right now,” said Korey Mack ’00, St. Mark’s Admission Officer, who serves as the Club’s sponsor. “It helps the boys realize that their youth uniquely situates them to fight for change in ways that people farther down the path in adulthood cannot.”
Mr. Mack helps the boys organize, calling on his own experience in civil service. In recent years, he has served in several roles for the City of Dallas, including Civil Service Board Representative, and City Planning Commissioner.
“I offer my advice, but it’s entirely Thomas and Rahul who draft the agendas, facilitate the meetings, and handle recruitment and leadership,” Mr. Mack said. “They also articulate their vision for the Club long-term and create documents, processes, and systems that will ensure the Club succeeds beyond their leadership.”
Since the Club was founded during the pandemic, the boys have been unable to meet in-person or plan activities beyond virtual events. But hopefully, that will change soon.
“We plan to visit museums, attend events such as protests and speeches, and help the community around us more directly through fundraisers and volunteer work,” said Rahul.