This February, Rye Country Day School’s annual celebration of Black History Month is guided by the theme Black History is American History. Since the month started, DEI Teaching Fellow Joshua Rivera ’15 has been sharing daily announcements highlighting Black leaders—and the features will continue every day throughout February. Advisors and lead teachers also discuss the featured Black leaders and their impact on American history, politics, education, art, and culture, in homerooms and advisories. “I am especially excited about this all-school effort and grateful for the collaboration of my colleagues. The goal of sharing these daily features with the school community is to celebrate Black history by learning about and acknowledging those who led the way for us,” says Mr. Rivera, who honed his passion for DEI and humanities as a student at RCDS and Howard University and as a teacher at Georgetown Day School in Washington D.C.
Thus far, RCDS students have learned about and honored Carter G. Woodson, the founder of Black History Month and The Journal of African American History; Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the first Black American to run for president; and the Nicholas Brothers, Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas, the influential tap dancers who helped pave the way for the Black dancers and performers through the 20th century.
"Our celebration of Black History Month is a part of our ongoing work to ensure Black history, culture, joy, excellence, and stories are shared and celebrated in our community throughout the year." -- Ali Morgan, Director of Diversity and Inclusion
Below are a few additional examples of how students in each division are celebrating Back History Month.
- Middle School students in Ms. McKenna and Ms. Black’s Language Arts classes will read March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
- In SEEK, fifth graders will learn about Ruby Bridges, the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South. They will examine Ruby’s impact on their own educational experiences, as well as concepts of character and courage. Students in Grade 6, 7, 8 are also discussing Black history and identity.
- Sixth grade students in Ms. McDonald's Language Arts classes are reading Augusta Scattergood's Glory Be and Carolyn Meyers's White Lilacs, unpacking themes of civil rights, equality, justice, and power. As part of the unit, the students are also watching the Southern Poverty Law Center's documentary A Time for Justice, which captures the spirit of the civil rights movement through historical footage and the voices of those who participated in the struggle, including the the bus boycott in Montgomery, the school crisis in Little Rock, the violence in Birmingham, and the triumphant 1965 march for voting rights.
- Students in Mr. O’Callaghan’s Language Arts class are reading 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World and discussing influential Black leaders over the years, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bessie Coleman, the first African American and the first Native American woman pilot.
- Fifth graders in Ms. Keown’s art class are gleaning inspiration from Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb, and looking at the work of contemporary Black artists, including Alma Woodsey Thomas, Kehinde Wiley, and the Gee's Bend Quiltmakers.
- Upper School students in Ms. Dolan’s class will explore the Clay Art Center’s celebration of Black Ceramic Artists, including the virtual exhibit and artist talks.
- In Upper School French 3, students will listen to the Duolingo podcast Surfer au Sénégal (Surfing in Senegal).