Gray Matters, February 2023

Black History Month: Overcoming While Resisting

February 1st was a joyous Wednesday at Capitol Hill Day School as we collectively launched our annual celebration of Black History Month. This year, “Overcoming While Resisting” is the theme framing the month and our school wide celebration. To help guide our work we are using the picture books “Woke, A Young Poet’s Call to Justice” and “Born on the Water.” On Wednesday it was wonderful to watch classes gather and engage in an array of activities during our scheduled Connection Time, a few highlighted below. Throughout the day a spirited energy was palpable on campus. 

We kicked off Black History Month by convening on Zoom as a full school to sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and hear "Say Their Names," a poem by Elizabeth Acevedo recited by students in our Black Student Union.

The EC division gathered together to learn about Carter G. Woodson, hear about why he started black history month, and ask questions. One First Grader asked: “Do you think the world is equitable?” Another student added, “If you don’t learn about history, history will happen again.”

Elementary grades worked in groups to think about and discuss the meaning of the words “overcome” and “resist”—writing definitions in their own words and drawing pictures.

Fifth and Sixth Grade students engaged in an exercise where they explored similarities and differences within groups, focusing on empathy, loving engagement, and collective value. They examined why a certain group's norms might develop to be so different from others and what can be learned from turning to each other with curiosity. Seventh and Eighth Graders explored their understanding of the School's Black History Month theme and the Black Lives Matters principles using media and music, including an examination of illustrations and photographs about the Black Panther Party. Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the authors of “Born on the Water” and other critically acclaimed histories of the Black experience in America writes: “This is our national truth: America would not be America without the wealth from Black labor, without Black striving, Black ingenuity, Black resistance.” As an educational community, we affirm that Black history is American history and that the lives and stories of African Americans must be seamlessly woven into our teaching and learning all year long. In the words of an article from the National Council for the Social Studies, “teaching should center on how Black history improves our understanding of contemporary circumstances, and how it can stimulate us to improve our democracy.” 

By repeatedly demonstrating love in the face of hate, beauty in the face of humiliation, creativity in the face of marginalization, Black Americans exemplify the ideals on which our nation was founded. It is this gift and enduring legacy that we endeavor to celebrate each February at Capitol Hill Day School. It is why we believe in the significance of Black History Month. 

To learn more about this year’s Black History Month and other DEIB work at Capitol Hill Day School please join Leslie Sinsay and me on Wednesday, February 22 for a Java with Jason. Click here to RSVP — we hope to see you there.