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Annual Black History Month celebrations held

Since 1976, the month of February has been designated as Black History Month to celebrate the achievements of African Americans and recognize their central role in American history. 

On Thursday, Feb. 4, a banner was hung in the commons stating “From Struggle Comes Strength” in honor of this month. The banner was designed by business teacher Elizabeth D’Angelo. In addition, language arts teacher Andrea Missey got volunteers through Key Club to create four videos highlighting African American influencers with the help of special education teacher Lindsey Keirsey. The videos were sent to seventh-hour teachers to play for their students. While Covid prevented them from conducting any ‘normal’ celebrations like in the past, Missey said that next year she’d like to organize a performance for the high school as well as the younger schools. “Next year, I’d like for us to produce a performance that includes song, dance, and spoken work to perform [not only] for the Summit students but for our quadrant schools as well. Younger students seeing the hard work, talent, and pride that a performance requires will likely ignite some passion for racial equity and understanding,” Missey said.

Sophomore Allison Semar was one of the Key Club members who volunteered to create a video. She said that hers was about the Guardians of the Gullah Geechee, descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo, and cotton plantations on the Sea Islands of the lower Atlantic Coast. 

“I will be talking about [the Gullah Geechee’s] history and what they are now. I am trying to share with people that no matter the color of your skin, you can do anything you set your mind to. I volunteered to make this video because I think it is very important to be educated and learn about these topics,” Semar said.

Last year, the library sponsored a Black History Month trivia contest that was held during Flex time. However, this year, due to Covid, the library created a Black History Month display case outside the library, displayed books written by Black authors in the library, and distributed special bookmarks celebrating Black History Month instead of conducting a larger celebration. On top of this, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, via Zoom, the library participated in a ‘Rockwood One Read’ of the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. Presented by the Rockwood library media program and the district Education Equity and Diversity and social studies departments, the One Read is meant to bring people together through the shared experience of reading the same book. Librarian Margaret Sullivan said that this month provides an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans.

“African Americans have played an important role in American history since early colonial times. Unfortunately, the experiences and contributions of Black Americans have been largely ignored. Black History Month provides an opportunity to learn about and celebrate an overlooked part of our nation’s past. It’s important to realize that African American history is American history. Citizens in all communities, including our Summit community, should have a broad understanding of all aspects of American history,” Sullivan said. 

However, junior Ahmesha Johnson said that even though she thought the celebrations of Black History Month were good ideas, she also felt the teachers could have talked about current events, including the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think that’s a great idea with [what] the teachers are doing, but I also think that they should touch a little bit on what’s happening in our world now. I know it can be extremely controversial [with] the Black Lives Matter protests [and] everything, but I also think that some of our students may benefit from hearing students in our school who have faced discrimination in and out of school,” Johnson said. “I have faced discrimination and racism ever since kindergarten. I think the teachers and the staff need to be more eye-opening and actually do something because a lot of incidents at the school happen and it’ll just get swept under the rug.”

Nonetheless, any effort made in trying to understand the history and struggles of African Americans is a step in the right direction. As a diverse nation, community, and school, conversations recognizing the achievements of African Americans allow for unity to occur. Missey said that is why it is an honor to put together the celebrations for this month. 

“It’s a privilege to facilitate the Black History Month celebration here at Summit. I’m sure it’s difficult for African American students to walk into a predominantly white school every day. While the contributions of Black Americans far exceed the recognition of one month, spending some time to be intentional hopefully makes Summit a welcome place for all,” Missey said.

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Taya Abraham, Of The Talon Staff

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