Black Student Union leads ESD community in celebration
embers across the community plan to take the remainder of February to educate themselves on Black History and celebrate the achievements of the members of the Black community.
Black Student Union President Sophia Ukeni and members of the Union, alongside Director of Diversity and Inclusion Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., plan to emphasize community discussion and the significance of the observation of this month.
Across all divisions, observation of the month has been strongly encouraged in classrooms. Lower school educators often highlight important figures of Black History Month and view a Black-led performance, while middle school has chapel talks focusing on experience.
“Lower school educators [often] highlight the bravery of Black History Heroes and Heroines like Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King, Jr. and freedom marchers,” Goatley said. “We traditionally end the month with a wonderful performance from the Bandan Koro Drum and Dance Ensemble or the Dallas Black Ballet Theatre. In middle school, we often have special chapel talks in which members of our community share their experiences and why Black History Month is special to them. Our middle school students are able to learn about topics like Historically Black Colleges and Universities , Black innovators, educators, entertainers and sports figures.”
BSU members have planned celebrations and discussions for upper school as well.
“[BSU members], with the help of my office and their faculty advisor, are responsible for the upper school student displays and programming,” Goatley said. “Historically, this had looked like planning the menu for our month’s emphasis partnership with SAGE, posters, chapel talks and community discussions. This year they have incorporated a community service project as a way to give back. Each year BSU has creative control for the ways in which they want to acknowledge and represent Black History Month at ESD.”
Ukeni plans to structure a chapel talk around the BSU-sponsored community service project to shed light on how donations help marginalized members of the Dallas community.
“BSU is planning a supply drive this year for St. Philips Community Center as well as a chapel talk that outlines how donations can help minorities succeed, to promote the drive,” Ukeni said. “I think Black History month is important because it allows us to celebrate the progress that society has made, despite the history of racism and challenges that African Americans have, and continue to, face. Shedding light on historic Black achievements inspires minority youth and motivates us to strive for excellence.”
In past years, some members of BSU have felt difficulty in celebrating the month in fear of negative responses and criticism from peers. The perceived political divide has pervaded the minds of those wanting to celebrate.
“I think that in the past, it’s been hard to commit to celebrating Black History Month at ESD due to our community of outspoken people, who sometimes offend each other,” Ukeni said. “Especially as a Black student, it’s scary to even want to do more than hang up posters about notable figures, which is what BSU has done in years prior, because you never know what the response is going to be. And the uncertainty makes it hard to celebrate with white people, who oftentimes don’t see much of a cultural connection. But I think that Black History Month has always been a good time for educational conversations at ESD.”
Tucker Roberston, junior member of BSU, believes it is important to not just celebrate Black history for the month of February but instead throughout the entire year.
“I think that Black History is important to celebrate and acknowledge through any point throughout the year because the things that African Americans have done in this country have shaped the way that life is run and how we live it,” Robertson said. “I think that narrowing down any culture’s achievements to a singular month only puts a specific time limit on when we can celebrate it, which is why I generally don’t like the idea of cultural months. Limiting the time we can acknowledge a group’s achievements gives them temporary glory when what they did helped impact a lifetime of people.”
Despite reluctance from some students, the month will be embraced by many and observed across all school divisions.
“It really does take the whole school to pull together to celebrate the beauty of the diverse ways that we are created by our loving God,” Goatley said. “And even still, I know that there is more that we can do and more that we will do, each year, together.”
We deserve to be celebrated
The Month of February is a month set aside to celebrate the excellence and the historical contributions of Black people, started by NAACP member Carter G. Woodson in 1976. But there is a lot of controversy in the Black community about the one month out of the year we “celebrate black people.’’
It’s exciting for some and concerning for many. Why do we, as Black people, still in the 21st century accept that we are “given” one month to celebrate a country that was built on the backs of our people? Others are excited that a month is set aside to intentionally celebrate Black people and all they have done for this country.
I am a part of the group that still appreciates the celebration of Black History Month, although I still think it’s problematic that it’s only one month out of the year. I like the concept of Black history month because there are so many firsts that are still happening in America today that should be celebrated. Kamala Harris is the first Black woman that’s a vice president, Obama was the first Black president, and this year is the first time there are two Black starting quarterbacks playing against each other in the Super Bowl. So when people wonder why I like the month that’s why, I feel like we deserve to be celebrated.