Students Iyanna L., Safia S., Nick G., Paul G., and Alyssa W. opened the assembly by presenting on the contributions that African Americans have made to American music genres, from Rock and Roll to Hip-Hop. “The assembly was really gratifying because I got to engage with my peers on topics like music and Black history that I’m really passionate about. I thought it was very effective for our community,” student Iyanna L. reflected.
“I learned a lot about rock ‘n’ roll music and its history and roots in Black culture, as well as just how much further we have to go when it comes to bringing appreciation and credit where credit is due to Black artists that haven’t been recognized,” added student Callie G.
The BSU was started three years ago thanks to a push by students to create a space in which they could learn about key issues and important aspects of culture. Ultimately, their goal was to create a learning opportunity for the community, sharing information that students may not have been aware of or exposed to otherwise.
“The students recognized that, often, when people learn about Black History, it’s from a deficit narrative, starting with enslavement. But African Americans have made so many contributions to society, both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Director of Equity and Inclusion, Ralinda Watts. “Watching the students connect deeply with their identity and culture and share that with the broader Buckley community is a wonderful display of what it means to be in a diverse learning community.”
Prior to the student presentations, teacher and alum Chase Holliday shared his reflections on why Black History Month is important. He spoke about the importance of recognizing and honoring the contributions of African Americans that students may or may not have learned about, and how those contributions have impacted American society.
Later in the assembly, student Mahari B., accompanied by Mr. Touchton, performed the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice.” Keynote speaker Dr. Donald Grant, who returned to Buckley after presenting at our MLK Assembly
and Social Justice Symposium Week, followed her performance and asked the audience, “How many of you have heard ‘Lift Every Voice’ before?” Only a few hands went up, demonstrating his point that, often, certain narratives and stories tend to be overlooked. The real challenge is to think critically and ask why certain voices aren’t always present. He concluded the assembly by sharing how he hopes that, one day, schools will adapt a more inclusive curriculum such that there will be no need for Black History Month.
In the Lower School, students have been learning about the contributions of African Americans; the Lower School Library currently features biographies of notable African Americans as well as stories written by African American authors. Later in the week, students will also have the opportunity to participate in an African- American Read-In, sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, in which author, Roda Ahmed, will read her book, Mae Among the Stars, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison. Parents of the Heritage Families as well as upper school BSU students (Black Student Union) will also visit classrooms through the week, reading selections highlighting the contributions of African Americans; this will build on the information Upper School BSU students have shared in their presentations.
“Migrations, Music, and the Movement” was such an enlightening and entertaining assembly. Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughtful, powering, and inspiring words with the Buckley community!