When you walk through almost any school campus in the United States during February, you’re more likely than not to see posters or hear teachers discussing February as Black History Month. The truth is, Black history is in fact – history.
Beginning on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, students at The Winchendon School | Massachusetts and NYC used poetry and music to express their deeper learning during the activities planned for MLK, Jr. Day and Black History Month.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” This quote from a sermon Dr. King, delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church just two months before he was assassinated, is the inspiration for several of the NYC campus’s Black History Month activities. With a focus on “Black Joy, Black Excellence, and Service” students and faculty are celebrating and enjoying Black artists through music, movies, and by helping others.
In NYC, at the start of the school year, 9th and 10th graders were always greeted with music by Nina Simone, Natalie Cole, and Nat King Cole and so we’ve continued that tradition in our Community Meeting where students are being introduced to some of the legendary Black musicians. In our first Community Meeting after MLK day, we kicked off the meeting with Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ and then played “Oh Timbaland” by Timbaland in which he samples the popular beat.
As students in NYC delve into Black History Month, each Impact Learning event includes a movie combined with a service activity. Recently, students watched Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse and wrote out Valentine’s Day cards for some 65 residents. In addition, the NYC campus invited the East Harlem School, an elementary school where Brooklyn students volunteered before the pandemic, to join in the Valentines for Vets initiative. The cards will be mailed to the Brooklyn VA Medical Center. Students will also make Valentine’s Day cards for the more than 80 residents at Downtown Brooklyn Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
In Massachusetts, day and boarding students studied and reflected upon Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem, The Hill We Climb. Challenged to think about their own vision of Gorman’s “new dawn,” students were encouraged to think about the importance of words and write a poem, prose, or song conveying their perspective.
Also in Massachusetts, students discovered Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded Black History Week in 1926 as an answer to the complete lack of Black accomplishments in school textbooks. His vision was to recognize the role of Black Americans in American history. His one week was chosen because it was near the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In 1976 President Gerald Ford expanded the one week to Black History Month.
Using Social Media to go Deeper
Using multiple social media platforms, students can take a deeper dive and continue exploring Black history by following #BlackTikTok, #MakeBlackHistory, #ShareBlackStories, and #LoveToSeeIt among others.
For additional Black History and DEI resources, visit the School’s resource pages.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it. – Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb