Black History Month: If You Build It...

Last year I gained so very much from helping organize our school's Black History Month assembly. You can read about my experience in these three posts. But I was a little hesitant to try it again. It was a lot of work and stress, and without a parent really pushing me, February would have come and gone without an assembly for Black History.

But then there was the inauguration of Donald Trump, and his relentless attacks on people of color and immigrants reminded me that it is easy to do nothing. The challenge is to stand up. So, our Charter Board calendared another Black History Month assembly and preparations began.

This year a colleague worked alongside me which made things so much easier, and students who had attended last year's assembly knew the possibilities of what they could perform, so getting kids to participate wasn't nearly as challenging.

And then, there is our Speech and Debate program. A colleague started a team several years ago, and now, we have students who compete and win in a very competitive local league. We have even had students place at the National tournament. So when these students signed up to participate, it elevated our performance level and brought a new diversity of voice to the program.

Our students are so very talented. Musical performances of "The Drinking Gourd" on clarinet by a recent immigrant from China, a duo's original rap, "Summertime," Parliament Funkadelic's "We Got the Funk" by the Emerson Super Band, and Michael Jackson's "Man In the Mirror" got feet tapping. But the words of Fredrick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, and Lupita Nyong'o brought to life by a talented group of orators brought down the house.

We still pushed our students to think. We urged students to think about why we need Black History, viewed clips from Ava Duvernay's 13th documentary about the persistent effects of racism, and teachable moments based on the request: "Don't Touch My Hair."

The talent and hard work of our school community and high expectations of our students really stood out to me this year. I'm so thankful to be part of a school where celebrating diversity is about not only celebrating culture, but demanding more from our students. Acknowledging places of privilege and identifying opportunities to stand up as an ally: this is what it means to resist.

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