It is hard to envision a better time to contemplate the immediate and far-reaching opportunities that a celebration like Black History Month presents to educational institutions.
The Everett Public Schools is ideally positioned to give voice and focus to the stories and experiences that show our students that Black history is American history. Black History Month is a time to highlight great lives and everyday life. It is an ideal moment to discuss historical watersheds and our best hopes for the future. It is a celebration that lends itself to all forms of scholarly pursuits, from fact-based research to intimate personal reflections.
People rightfully point out at the outset of Black History Month that educators should have a never-ending interest in studying and discussing these issues. I completely understand and agree with this sentiment. But I also believe that this celebration gives us a special opportunity for our students, from the young elementary grades through high school, to absorb themselves in the joyous and aspirational aspects of Black History Month. From creating an inspirational piece of art, to writing about a significant historical figure, to expressing oneself through poetry or performing arts, there is an incredible benefit to directly linking a specific theme with academic pursuits.
Black History Month creates precisely this opportunity. If you are looking for specific inspiration, remember that this year’s theme is The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.
Using a wide-angle lens, Black History Month cannot help but bring to mind some of the major issues that are receiving a much-needed reexamination across our country. Indeed, fundamental questions about the best ways to teach history to our students are being debated in ways that are perhaps difficult but absolutely necessary. I hope and trust our community is excited about the chance to be a part of a transformative period in American public education.
In the meantime, please share with your students these opportunities to celebrate Black History Month. These are in addition to the full array of virtual events that have been scheduled by Everett High leaders. That schedule can be found here.
• For our youngest students in Kindergarten through Grade 5, the EPS is holding an Art Contest in which students will be designing colorful posters that best reflect what Black History Month means to them.
• In Grades 6 through 8, we are sponsoring an essay contest in which students answer the question, Is there an individual who inspires you for Black History Month.
Essays should be 500 words or less and should: Address how the individual has been an inspiration in your life. Discuss the contributions of the individual who has served to inspire and motivate you.
We will award first-, second-, and third-place prizes totaling $700 for the winners of this essay contest.
• For EHS students, we are asking entrants to choose one of the following three quotes and describe what it means to them in 500 words or less.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything…that smacks of discrimination or slander.” – Mary McLeod Bethune, Pioneering Educator and Organizer
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” — Shirley Chisholm, American Politician, Educator, and Author
We will award first-, second-, and third-place prizes totaling $850 for the winners of the EHS essay contest.
As always, please share with me any moments, stories, anecdotes, or examples of how you and your students celebrate Black History Month. And, as always, thank you for your commitment and creativity.
In Partnership, Priya Tahiliani Superintendent of Schools