Black History Month at WFS

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Black History Month at WFS

A Black History Month display in the Upper School

A Black History Month display in the Upper School

A Black History Month display in the Upper School

A Black History Month display in the Upper School

Abby Klemen, Entertainment Editor

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Whether it is Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, or even Groundhog Day, there are a ton of things to celebrate in the month of February. Although the shortest month, February is clearly packed with a handful of holiday favorites and exciting events. However, it is important to recognize that the entire month of February encompasses the celebration of African American history. The tradition of celebrating Black History Month began in 1926 in the United States. It was first celebrated specifically during the second week of February because President Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th, and Frederick Douglass, an African American abolitionist, was born on February 14th. As both of these prominent members of U.S. history were advocates for African American rights, it seemed appropriate to celebrate African American history during this week, and now throughout the entire month of February. While people in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain celebrate Black History Month, members of the Wilmington Friends School also like to explore and celebrate the lives of a diverse range of well-known and lesser-known African American people.

This year, in order to celebrate Black History Month, students took it into their own hands to acknowledge those who made great strides and differences in the world. Members of the Diversity Awareness Club and African American Affinity Club teamed up to create a wall filled with names and descriptions of historically lesser-known African American people. The title of this project, displayed in large letters on the wall, is “Black History Month: Steps Towards Progress.” The members of these two clubs included artists, athletes, activists, scientists, and politicians to embody a diverse range of accomplished people, both living and deceased. Some of the members featured on this board include activist Harriet Tubman, artist Oprah Winfrey, and athlete Serena Williams. Gustavo Silveira ’17, a clerk of the Diversity Awareness Club commented that “This project was to raise awareness of prominently lesser-known black history members in history across the board because we wanted to break certain stereotypes of a range of accomplishments.”

In addition to the creative and informative board of lesser-known African American people, the Quest Diversity Committee, which includes clerks of the Upper School Agenda Team, the Affinity Club, and GSA, held a special event on Monday, February 27th after school. During this time, all members of the Wilmington Friends Community were invited to discuss the book “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson, an activist and lawyer. Nick Gauthier ’17 helped organize this event and shared some background on the book itself and the importance of coming together to discuss it: ‘“Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson, is a nonfiction book including a collection of real stories of African Americans treated unfairly by the criminal justice system. The QUEST-Diversity Committee held a book-read and then a subsequent debrief. What prompted this event was a shared feeling that Friends is in a bubble; while in many ways it amplifies the quality of our community, it also shelters us from the reality beyond Alapocas. This event was to spread awareness by fostering discussion about something rather taboo in our community and to hopefully inspire some in more fortunate situations to strive to improve the quality of life for others.

It is clear that everyone who organized and attended this event engaged in rich discussion and shared promising ideas. Silveria, who also helped organize the event, shared that students and teachers had been planning this night since winter break, and the school bought one hundred copies of the book for people to read. Silveira added, “We had the idea of buying these copies of “Just Mercy” with the idea of talking about issues to increase conversation and discussion, and it was fantastic to hear inspiring proposals for action.”

Betsy Cepparulo, Upper School Peace and History teacher, acknowledged these students’ hard work in creating an unforgettable after-school event and suggested an important lesson in the incorporation of African American history into the understanding of history itself at WFS. Cepparulo commented, “I understand the sentiment that we do not necessarily do anything organized during the school day to celebrate Black History Month, but it is also important to note that students and teachers do things everyday that have to do with the lasting effects of slavery on our country. In peace class we look at “Just Mercy” and the real life events of racial profiling and challenges of the legal system. So in a lot of ways, although we do not have one day where we stop and say the words “Black History Month,” we integrate it into our curriculum.”

While people predominantly celebrate African American history throughout the month of February, it is important to always recognize those who fought for change and continue to fight today. Please look out for more informative and engaging activities in the Wilmington Friends community, and thank you to all students and teachers involved in this year’s celebration of Black History Month!

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