“The time and attention that you put into this very important topic is something that is very important to me,” Associate Head of School Mariama Richards told the Elementary School students who were leading their division’s Black History Month Gathering. “Being raised with the name ‘Mariama,’ I had to explain to so many people that it’s Swahili, that it means ‘gift of god’ and that it is one of the indications of my parents’ real love and need for me to be connected to my roots. And so I thank you all so much.”
In the gathering that followed, and throughout the month, Mariama’s heartfelt words echoed across all three divisions’ celebrations, which were filled with love, affirmation and gratitude for Black history and culture.
The Elementary School gathering began with a video montage of each participating student, from kindergarteners to fifth graders, declaring, “I am Black excellence.” From the Community Room stage, students then shared their definitions of “Black excellence”: the ingenuity of surgeon and medical researcher Charles Richard Drew; the determination of the nineteenth-century entrepreneur Dorothy Kirwan Thomas; and the category-defying music of Duke Ellington. After fifth grader Lyric King recited a poem she wrote about Black excellence, Crossroads’ youngest Black students stood to proclaim their excellence as well.
Later in the month, the Middle School held a Black History Month assembly. After an introduction by Middle School Visual Arts Teacher and Project X Coordinator David Stewart, students took to the stage to celebrate notable Black individuals in American history and performed energy-filled dances to the raucous sounds of their classmates’ cheers. Eighth grader Karlissah Laguerre read a letter she’d composed titled “Black Joy, Black Love & My Ancestors Who Brought this to Existence,” which include these lines:
"I love the black joy and wonder that comes with my ancestry. From you, my family and the people around me, I’ve been taught that beyond freedom is the ultimate truth. I’ve learned that I am soil, seed, earth, water, wind, fire and gold. I am magical stardust. I am eternally grateful that you, my ancestors, carried these connections across time and space."
Black Girl Magic (BGM) and Black Student Union (BSU), two Upper School affinity groups, partnered to organize numerous educational opportunities for the community throughout the month. They decorated the windows of the Paul Cummins Library to showcase notable Black figures throughout history as well as their own reflections on what being Black means. Inside the library, they created a display of books featuring Black stories and authors. BGM and BSU capped off their programming by researching and writing short bios of accomplished artists, scientists, authors, mathematicians and historians, including sculptor Augusta Savage, computer scientist Mark Dean and writer Audre Lorde. The students distributed the bios to faculty in all disciplines to share with their classes daily during the final week of February.
“We wanted to point out some contributions that come from Black people that [our community] might not know about,” reflected 11th grader and BSU co-chair Sydney Johnson. “To honor and make sure people know how much we’ve given to the world.”