Black History Month recap


AREA dancers perform at Black History Month assembly. Photo by Matthew Young

Every year, the Black History Month assembly focuses on a different aspect of Black culture. As students filed into McCain for the assembly, they were greeted by a celebration. With diverse beats and historical speeches, the Black History Month assembly this year centered on the history of dance and the influence of Black people on art. 

“I was surprised to find the assembly super engaging,” said sophomore Lorelai Chalmers. 

For months, the Black affinity groups have been working on this assembly to bring in the dance group AREA to perform dances. The performances by AREA were interspersed with recitations of information about black history and culture from Black Upper School students.

“Normally, we start to prepare in January, but everyone is really busy, so we had to prepare a little early this year,” said senior Campbelle Searcy. “We start preparing at the end of November, and we met frequently, especially in January, about what we were planning on doing and what things we could grab from to make sure every little aspect of this Black History Month was going to be special.”

For many of the seniors helping to plan Black History Month, the assembly had a special significance, as their last chance to share a bit of their pride in their culture with the rest of the Upper School.

“For a lot of the seniors, it is very big for us since we were the first freshman class coming in to actually do a student-led Black History Month assembly, and this is our last one,” said Searcy.

AREA rehearsed multiple times in McCain with Westminster students and faculty to make sure everything was exactly as they wanted. The performance was dancing-through-history styled, so the dancers started with a traditional dance and moved up through the years to showcase Motown, the movie Hairspray, and even a modern celebration of the Black influence that is central in hip hop and rap music. The assembly is not the only aspect of Westminster’s Black History Month that students have organized. Along with the assembly, playlists and menus have been created for the enjoyment of Westminster’s community. 

“The students curated the playlists,” said Upper School visual arts teacher Michael Reese. “We sat down and thought about what would be a great sampling of music across the spectrum of black cultural expression, so they put together their own list…. Listening to the playlists, I thought it was a really great cross-genre, cross-generational mixture of songs. I thought that was great.”

Along with the playlists that students created, they planned menus for the whole month with five different meals. There was soul food on the first Friday of the month, followed by Caribbean food the following week. The last two weeks featured, first, an Afro-diasporic food festival, and second, a cookout that featured Black alumni. 

“I thought it was a really cool idea,” said Chalmers. “It was just really easy to participate in, and I thought it was cool to try food I hadn’t before.”

The students spent hours perfecting the month’s celebration, carefully organizing the food, menus, and assembly to celebrate the month in the most thorough way possible. “I think, ultimately, our goal with Black history month was to depict the different aspects of Black culture, but in a way where people are excited to learn about it instead of being conscious about learning about it,” said Searcy. “I feel like there’s a celebration in learning about Black culture and Black history, just like learning about any culture and any history, and I feel like I want people moving forward to know that they are more than welcome to engage in a culture respectively and learn more about Black culture especially. I want people to engage more so that this can be a more inclusive environment.”

While the month was well put together and curated for everybody’s enjoyment, there were still questions on how this contributes to the rest of the year. Black History Month highlights Westminster’s teachings of Black history, so as time passes into the following months, there are thoughts about what else needs to be conveyed. 

“As somebody who has gone through this curriculum and will be graduating soon, I think it is really important to shed light on different perspectives, specifically within our history classes and English classes, of course,” said Searcy. “I feel like it is important for us to know about Black icons and Black media because it broadens and complicates your understanding of Black culture and Black impact on the United States and how it has affected the United States and our world in full. In reality, Black people have such a huge impact on our society, and people really do not know that. I feel like a lot of people, especially at this school, feel like it is a side job or a side character view. Black people are just as important as any other people coming in and are just as smart and willing to do things as any other group of people.”

Students have enjoyed the celebrations of the month and the leaders of the month have definitely succeeded. As the month comes to an end, there is hope that more is to come for the Westminster community with regard to learning more about Black history and Black culture.