In recognition of Black History Month, leaders and staff at Andrew J. Brown Academy are encouraging students to write and illustrate diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. Black History Month, which takes place every February, is a designated time to recognize and reflect the significant roles African Americans have played in shaping U.S. history.
In lower grades, all students read the book "All Are Welcome" by Alexandra Penfold, which follows a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. Students created a drawing illustrating their uniqueness, welcoming others, and being friends with those who are different.
These pictures were then placed into a quilt pattern along with a quote by Maya Angelou saying, "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” For older students, AJB staff discussed social justice and diversity. Staff allowed students the choice of either writing a poem or essay about the topic or to choose a prompt such as "How does it make the world better?" or "The world needs your voice; how can you stand up against racism?" Their writings are shared and displayed throughout the school, along with a visual display of the meaning of diversity.
“I have always felt that African American success stories are extremely important to all scholars! In the African American community, we have found ways to survive, to preserve our culture, and our families,” said James Hill, principal at AJB. “Our history is ripe with heroes like Harriet Tubman or Denmark Vesey, but equally important are the forgotten fathers and mothers who raised families and kept people alive. At AJB we are a cultural mosaic, and we are not embarrassed by our diversity. We stand in awe of our students’ ancestry! We teach this strength to all of our students and stress the importance of giving back and contributing to humanity as well.”
To wrap up every week in February, AJB staff will sing Lift Every Voice and Sing, also known as “The Black National Anthem,” every Friday over the intercom during announcements. Hill shared that you can tell a great deal about people by what they deem important enough to remember, to create moments for, and what they celebrate. “Black History Month is a clarion call to remember. Yet it is a call that is often unheeded. At AJB, we want to answer the call always!”
Coming up later in the month, AJB will host a school-wide Black History Virtual Max Museum to allow students and staff to travel back in time for a rich cultural experience. Students are tasked with researching Black figures who made a significant impact on the culture, then transforming them into a piece of art to present. The virtual experience will be filmed, then published to continue the tradition of the AJB living wax museum in a safe environment.
In addition to recognizing Black History Month in a variety of educational ways, AJB recently gave back to their families by partnering with Operation Warm to donate over 300 coats to AJB scholars. Operation Warm is more than a coat. They provide children with warmth, confidence, and hope through the gift of brand-new winter coats. Through serving millions of children in need across North America, Operation Warm has seen that a brand-new coat offers a child physical and emotional warmth, confidence to socialize and succeed, and hope of a brighter future.
This event put smiles on the scholars’ faces and keeping them warm and safe this winter season! “Parents and students have felt warm, figuratively and literally!” said Hill. “Our comfort is a privilege, and we were reminded that owning a coat is a privilege that many of us take for granted.”