September 15 to October 15 is Latine Heritage Month, also referred to as National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the RCDS community is celebrating by recognizing leaders in the Latine community and hearing from special guest speakers. Daily community-wide announcements highlight Latine leaders, and advisors and teachers discuss their accomplishments and contributions in homerooms and advisories.
Thus far, students have learned about and honored authors Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Sandra Cisneros; actor, playwright, producer, and musician Lin-Manuel Miranda; renowned engineer and astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa who was the first Hispanic/Latine woman to go to space; Mexican poet, writer, and thinker Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz who defied the social expectations of the mid-1600s to lead a brilliant career during a time when women were not expected to be intellectuals; botanist Ynes Enriquetta Julietta Mexia who discovered two new plant genera and categorized over 500 new plant species; baseball player and humanitarian Roberto Enrique Clemente Walker; and the leader of the Haitian Revolution François-Dominique Toussaint Louverturem, better known as Toussaint Louverture; among many others.
Also part of the celebration was a visit from one of the featured leaders, best-selling Middle Grade and Young Adult (YA) author Ibi Zoboi. Ms. Zoboi’s writing focuses on themes of afrofuturism and magical realism. Her YA novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and her debut middle grade novel, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, was a New York Times bestseller. She is also the author of Pride, a contemporary YA remix of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Ms. Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Ms. Zoboi’s visit started with Upper School Community Meeting during which she read an excerpt from American Street and then took questions from three Upper School student panelists, Isabel Tiburcio ’24, Madison Danquah ’23, and Ricardo Coates ’23. The group discussed the creative process, how identity figures into writing and self-awareness, the importance of representation in literature, and the complexities surrounding the concept of home in the immigrant experience. Ms. Zoboi also talked about the Daughters of Anacaona Writing Project, a creative writing workshop in Port-au-Prince she founded to give Haitian girls the opportunity to see themselves in literature and provide a space to showcase their voice. The workshop ran from 2009 and 2014.
After a faculty lunch, Ms. Zoboi was the featured speaker in the Latine Heritage Month Assemblies, first for Grades 7 and 8 and then Grades 5 and 6. Her presentation for Grades 7 and 8 shared her journey from Haiti and how her writing is informed by her connections to this place, her family, and her interests. Her presentation for Grades 5 and 6 discussed her middle grade novel My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich. She shared her personal and creative journey with the students and encouraged them to follow their passions, read as much as they could, tell their stories, and listen to the stories of their family members.
Thank you, Mr. Zoboi, for a wonderful visit!
At the interactive Latine Heritage Month bulletin board, Upper School students scan QR codes to listen to spoken word by Elizabeth Acevedo, learn about Garifuna culture, read comics by Breena Nuñez, explore NYC's World Trade Center Transportation Hub (designed by architect Santiago Calatrava), find new podcasts, and more. New material is added regularly to the board, making it an educational and engaging stop in the Main Hall of the Pinkham Building.
In the Lower School, students are reading and discussing books by Latine authors, and bulletin boards share information about Latine leaders, heritage, and culture.
The Lower School continued its celebration of Latine Heritage Month. Mr. Morgan stopped by Ms. Lentini's first grade class to read "Drum Dream Girl" by Margarita Engle. On Friday, visiting author Emma Otheguy read “A Sled for Gabo” to students in Pre-K through Grade 2, and she spoke at a Grades 3 and 4 assembly about Latine history and leaders.