Celebrating Black History Month at Masters

Matthias Jaylen ’24
Black History Month at Masters has been an important time for students in both the Middle and Upper School to recognize, celebrate and highlight the achievements of the Black community.

Upper school Spanish teacher Roberto Mercedes wove Black history and culture into his curriculum with works by Afro-Latin artists Mary Grueso (Colombia) and Nicolás Guillén (Cuba). “We reflected on the poems ‘¿Por qué me dices Morena?’ and ‘Tú no sabe ingle,’” Mercedes said. “Both pieces are an essential part of the culture of Latin America, and these poems represent the long journey of the Black communities in Latin America and the world to achieve freedom, liberty and justice. The idea of incorporating elements of Black History Month into the Spanish classes is an outstanding opportunity to create awareness about the contribution of the Black community in culture and also in our global society.”

Morning Meetings have also been a time for the entire upper school community to come together to honor Black individuals. During each morning meeting in February, Kuorkor Ashie ’23 and Demi Oni ’23, the leaders of the School’s Black affinity club, ONYX, presented different facts about Black history to the community. 

“We’ve tried to make Black History Month at Masters an experience rather than just an acknowledgment,” said Selas Douglas, dean for inclusive excellence. “We opened the month with some brief remarks from me that were followed by a presentation from members of ONYX. They did a wonderful job putting it together, and one of the things I loved was their choice to highlight the representation we have in our community from countries throughout the African diaspora. ONYX has continued to share quotes from Black historical figures throughout the month.”

Upper school counselor Brandon Sanders gave students a memorable — and jazzy — experience. Sanders, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, recruited an ensemble of professional jazz players to play different types of jazz for the students, while also sharing the history of the genre and its importance to the Black community. “I love performing and promoting positive vibes through music,” Sanders explained.

Down the hill in the Middle School, the theme of Black History Month was “Black Resistance.” Middle school MISH, DEI and Student Leadership Board members collaborated to create a presentation about Black history and its importance in the community. Their presentation showcased a number of Black activists, including Claudette Colvin and Dorothy Height.

Middle school student leaders also planned a movie night showing the film “Hidden Figures,” the 2016 Oscar-nominated biographical drama about three female African American mathematicians who worked at NASA and played a vital role during the Space Race. All proceeds from the movie night will be donated to the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), an organization that supports African American children and their families by interacting and working with local leaders and officials on issues that affect these communities.

Celebrating Black History Month at Masters has been a monumental and crucial tradition, where all students and faculty come together to learn and celebrate. As Mercedes shared, “Celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black people in the U.S. and beyond is priceless. It is a great chance to remember and honor many people from the Black community who have been ‘a power for good’ in this world and still cry out for justice, peace, love and opportunities for all.”

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