For many, when they think of February holidays and celebrations, Black History Month is oftentimes overlooked. However, with our diverse student body, attempts are made to commemorate and put a spotlight on the importance of this month. But, is enough actually done?
Each year, the Diversity Club and the LIFE club, formerly known as the Black Empowerment club, come together to plan, practice and execute an assembly that is performed for the students once during the month. Sometimes, musicians and students from other elective classes get involved and help to produce the event.
However, for students who aren’t in these classes, clubs or extracurriculars, they aren’t dedicating the time towards planning and rehearsals. For them, the assembly is a one-time thing, a 45-minute chunk of one day in February.
What about the kids who are absent the day of the assembly? In a school of more than 2,000 students, it is inevitable that some students will be absent for some reason. If someone misses the day of the event, they basically miss the majority of what the high school does to emphasize Black History Month.
Usually, the assembly contains music and dancing along with a storyline and of course the root of the celebration: the need for a group of people that has struggled for so long to receive its fair rights. So many people fought tirelessly for their rights, so an assembly isn’t enough to truly honor these sacrifices.
While portraying the importance of the month for students is beneficial, school officials could encourage honoring the importance in other ways including teachers integrating it into lessons. It can start simple: a bulletin board that features historic African American figures who paved the way for what we celebrate today. Students in the school can walk the halls knowing that their peers, teachers and administration care about this message and want to share it as much as they can.
In addition, everyday broadcast students premiere that days’ episode of The Juice, the school news. Containing announcements, sports highlights, entertainment and more, The Juice does an amazing job of reaching, and more importantly, connecting with viewers. If the school selected an influential African American figure each week in February, or throughout the entire year, and highlighted them on the news, it would be the ideal way to spread the message to students.
Another idea would be to implement these lessons in history classes. Three history classes are required for graduation, meaning freshmen through juniors are usually enrolled in a history class, with many seniors taking a fourth year. If every teacher spent two class periods discussing and informing their students about Black History Month, more kids would be impacted and knowledgeable.
There are many simple ways to do this. Teachers should try to include examples of African Americans making change and going beyond the outlined curriculum when possible. If assigning a report, there should be an option to focus on an African American person or an event that is celebrated by Black History month. It would help eliminate the absence factor, and the students would be able to share their knowledge with parents, friends and siblings.
Overall, it’s extremely important for the school to deliberately emphasize and dedicate our time and compassion to this celebration, year-round. In doing so, the high school can be the stone of a ripple effect and large change in prioritizing Black History Month and the African American experience.