From the closing of yesterday’s Middle School Black History Month assembly:
This Black History Month we have chosen to focus on the facts, not alternative facts, but indisputable, real facts. Black history did not begin with slavery and it did not end when the Obamas left the White House. We are sure we will see another black man or woman in the White House during our lives! Here are just a few facts you need to remember:
Black Girl Magic is real.
Black Boy joy is real.
Black wealth is real.
Black beauty is real.
Black support is real.
Black excellence is real.
Black love is real.
Black lives are real
We are real
We are real, we are woke, we see you and we want you to see us!
As the students said yesterday, “Black history did not begin with slavery and it did not end when the Obamas left the White House.” Our assembly, which included students from the fifth through twelfth grades, honored the complexity of black history. It began with the rendition of a somber verse from ‘Strange Fruit’ (written by Abel Meeropol, one-time LREI parent) and traversed a winding path through jokes (thank you notes written in the style of Jimmy Fallon), poems, and dance, included silently displaying the names of dozens of black women, men and boys killed by police, only to end in joyful song. In this way the assembly threaded a near-impossible needle, holding both the heartache and the delight of the black American experience side by side.
In the Middle School, we take the time each year to shine a spotlight on the black experience to intentionally counteract the way history and culture has negated, avoided, and misrepresented the lives of black Americans. This assembly showed us that this month doesn’t exist solely for the benefit of black people, but to also inspire and invigorate all of us so that we are not bystanders. As a white person, I am reminded that Black History Month is also for me. It’s nourishing to think about black artists and activists, and to hear our black students speak up and speak out and celebrate together. We all need Black History Month.
We want all our students - including and especially white students - to absorb and appreciate the full spectrum of black history. They need to know the name of James Baldwin as well as Trayvon Martin, and jazz as much as Jim Crow. Yesterday’s assembly did this so beautifully. Black girl magic is real. Black boy joy is real.
None of this would have happened without Margaret Andrews, who once again organized, created, cajoled and delivered an exceptional experience for all of us. Students left the assembly and continued to talk in their homerooms yesterday and today. This is not the punctuation mark at the end of black history month, it’s the beginning of the next conversation. It’s an invitation. Thank you Margaret.