Walk through the halls of Harlem Academy and you’ll notice powerful messages displayed on every classroom door. Black and Proud, Beautiful are My People, and Loving Engagement were just a few of the inspiring mantras that students embraced as part of Harlem Academy’s Black History Month Showcase.
For four weeks, students in all grades explored the 13 principles of the Black Lives Matter movement and developed projects to highlight them. The result was an exciting all-school showcase that took place earlier this month. Students visited every classroom to see how each grade celebrated one of the principles through door decorations, insightful presentations, and poems.
Our students learn about black history throughout the year, and this special project was one of the many opportunities to celebrate the legacy, contributions, and achievements of black people. Harlem Academy’s guiding principles call on us to inspire, engage, and include. This powerful project showed how students and teachers embrace these values.
“The Black History Month committee wanted the showcase to be an opportunity for our community to learn about black people and black history in an explicit way,” said Marieme Diouf, Harlem Academy’s diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator, who managed the project. “Given our student population, it’s important that students see themselves reflected in the curriculum.”
Older students were excited to watch younger ones make their presentations, cheering them on from the sidelines. “I love that I'm a tall girl with curly braids,” said first grader Nadia during her class’s presentation, which focused on the principle Unapologetically Black. At the end of her presentation, Nadia was met with loud applause and shouts of, “That was awesome!” and “Great job!”
The eighth grade’s project centered around the principle of Black Villages, which Breanne eloquently defined for fellow students who stopped by her class. "Black Villages are members of a community who collectively support and care for one another,” she said. Classmate Jah’si went on to recite an original poem based on the principle, which included the line, “In our village we are proud, celebrating that we’re beautiful in all shades of black and brown.”
“We chose to focus on Black Villages because we wanted to show that by sticking together and supporting one another, we will be able to fight injustice, oppression, and racism,” he explained. “And we wanted to reinforce the message that every single skin color out there is beautiful!”
As the showcase came to a close, Ms. Diouf reflected, “My favorite part was seeing middle school students and lower school students learning together. I saw two fourth graders leading a lesson and also asking eighth graders thought-provoking questions about diversity within the black community. The fourth graders looked like mini-teachers!”