La Toya Rivers
Black History Month sheds light on diversity at WHS
Story-telling, learning, celebrating and discovering heritage are all elements of Black History Month, which is recognized during February across multiple nations. At WHS, the Black Student Union (BSU) marks this special time with a school-wide assembly.
“Black History Month is definitely an opportunity to think and reflect on past influential African-American men and women who have left a solid mark in the history books,” senior and BSU member Eche Onwuama said. “They paved the way for not only people that look like me, but people of all different races all over the world.”
Senior VJ Rougeau echoed this idea with the added sentiment of students recognizing the cultures and backgrounds of classmates.
“It’s definitely good to know the background of the other people you go to school with every day and how they have been influenced by the past,” Rougeau said.
These backgrounds and histories all intersect during the Black History Month assembly on February 13. The assembly features performances from Onwuama, the WHS dance team Queens of Kulture, and a host of other students and faculty.
According to METCO director La Toya Rivers, the assembly focuses on a new message this year.
“The thought is to expand the scope of what people think African-American history and African-American culture is,” Rivers said. “Our race is all black, but we’re not all African-American.”
A specific new addition to this year’s assembly will be a performance from the dance team. Sophomore and dance team member Julia Craigwell commented on what the team’s assembly performance will represent.
“We’re going to have girls dance to their culture’s music; not only will there be Hip-Hop, but there will be some Reggae, some Jamaican, some African music, Spanish, all types of music,” Craigwell said.
Craigwell also added her thoughts on being a METCO student at WHS, and why sharing her culture with fellow classmates is important to her.
“Being a METCO student and being a student of color, it’s a different environment because we go to a predominantly white school. So [it’s important for] the students here who are not of color to get to see the differences in our cultures,” Craigwell explained.
Along with dance, this assembly features a performance from Onwuama, who draws influence in his music from the black performers who came before him.
“The black musicians I admire, like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye, exhibited pain, struggle, joy, and belief. I like to channel that energy in my songs,” Onwuama stated.
While many involved with the assembly think it’s a step in the right direction for inclusivity and diversity, almost all feel there can be even more steps and effort made.
“I think there could be more, for all cultures, not just black culture. I think a [whole culture] educational day would be useful, but I definitely think we’re making steps in the right direction,” Rougeau said.
Junior Bharathi Subbiah commented on how she feels race and history are treated together at WHS.
“As a student of color who is not black, I notice that our curriculum and teachers do take great effort in incorporating diverse histories,” Subbiah said. “I think people should be willing to learn about black history and how they played a role in it, and even how it has shaped them.”
English teacher Matthew Henry also commented on improving inclusivity and diversity in history education.
“It should be that we learn that history of the people who contributed to things, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality,” Henry said.
Sophomore Allison Kirk also shared her thoughts on incorporating all groups and people in the classroom.
“I think there are other histories in this school that we don’t celebrate, and it’s important to keep that emphasis [on diversity],” Kirk said.
More specifically, Henry added that America itself often overlooks its black history.
“Black history is American history. Everyone was contributing equally in the forming and sustaining of this country,” Henry said.
The ideas for the future extend beyond just history and black history. Rivers commented on the next steps the student body could take.
“The school needs to understand that students are ready. As a body, they’re very open to new ideas and new perspectives that aren’t their own,” Rivers added. “Given the state of a lot of things in the world right now, we should probably capitalize on that.”