Students throughout the Tippecanoe School Corporation are celebrating Black History Month through a variety of ways: music, books, displays, guest speakers and more. “This is an opportunity to celebrate culture and learn about the role that African Americans have played in our country’s history,” says TSC Diversity Coordinator Sadie Harper-Scott.
Harrison High School’s AALOT (African American Leaders of Tomorrow) and Diversity Club are hosting an event February 25, “Black History Month: Bridging the Gap,” for their members and students in ethnic literature and ethnic studies classes. Speakers include Harper-Scott, former West Lafayette High School Boys Basketball Coach Dave Wood, Purdue student Colin Keyes and Director of the Minority Health Coalition of Tippecanoe County Tracy Fuller.
“We view Black History Month as an opportunity to bridge the gap in diversity that exists in the school and local community,” says AALOT sponsor Faith Warner. “We hope the event will open dialogue between our students and adults in an effort to promote understanding, compassion, empathy, and ultimately change.”
“Black History Month is important to highlight and we are getting the entire school involved by raising our voices and standing up for what we believe,” says Diversity Club member Phong Nguyen.
Battle Ground Middle School sixth grade art students researched a person they believe has been an influential part of Black history, created printing blocks and put them on display in the hallways along with a mural of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.
Student Kloe Spitznagle chose astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space. “She paved the road for other American American women to go into space,” says Kloe.
Journey Thomas chose to highlight Madam CJ Walker because she was the first black billionaire and she was a woman. “I hope people learn that just because you're black or a woman, it doesn't mean you can't have the same opportunities as anybody else in this world and you shouldn't let anyone tell you differently,” says Journey.
Classmate Cameron Baker chose Vice President Kamala Harris and chose Harris’ quote “What I want young women and girls to know is: You are powerful and your voice matters." Cameron says, “I feel that it is important for girls to know that they can be in high positions of power and that they can think for themselves.”
Some McCutcheon High School students in English and Work-Based Learning classes started a series of social justice topics on Martin Luther King Junior Day. Teachers Stella Schafer and Jeremy Bloyd had students watch a biography on Dr. King, a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement and the video "Born Into Hate."
“This led to a discussion about stereotyping where our students brainstorm stereotypes they hear frequently or have been labeled, and how stereotypes affect culture and community,” says Bloyd. “We ended our unit with students presenting signs they created for a cause and hosted a peaceful protest. Students were able to discuss differing viewpoints in a respectful and peaceful manner, even when we disagree.”
“I really enjoyed this discussion over the last few weeks and it gave me hope that regardless of someone’s beliefs, there is a common ground between everything,” says senior Josiah Flowers. “It is just a matter of having an open mind and wanting to learn about all the factors that take place and actions after that can be put in place to help bring awareness to social injustice.”
Students and staff throughout the TSC are hoping their efforts this month will truly make a difference. “By highlighting Black history, it allows those students the chance to open their minds and reconsider their opinions on people of color as a whole,” says junior Maleya Parker from the Harrison High School’s Diversity Club. “I have heard and been told racist things, seen the different treatment, and so much more. I see Black History Month as an opportunity to come together as a school to support one another rather than divide us.”