The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

The student voice of St. George's Independent School.

The Lodge

Amplifying Black Excellence

New Black History Month initiatives celebrate the diversity of Black culture
Photo: Ella Coons
Black student leaders pose with Dr. William Smith, III, guest pastor from Berean Missionary Baptist Church, at the Black History Month chapel on February 20.

In 1926 journalist, historian, author and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Carter G. Woodson founded a week in February committed to celebrating the life and excellence of African Americans.

Woodson chose the month of February to coincide with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglas, a former slave and social reformer, along with Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, who abolished slavery with the 13th amendment on December 18, 1865.

However in 1976, Woodson’s week became a month-long celebration called Black Heritage Month, which is now more frequently referred to as Black History Month.

In past years, Black History Month has been celebrated by the St. George’s community through what can be described as vague assemblies that haven’t seemed to be too memorable. This year however, there is a large increase in celebrations.

Senior and Prefect of Diversity, Elijah Palmer, along with the members of the MySpace Alliance, are the students leading this change.

“As the Prefect of Diversity…I want to celebrate far more things when it comes to diversity,” Palmer explained. “Something that’s really big at a lot of places that really isn’t big here is Black History Month. When talking to Ms. [Jessica] Hardy…[I] decided that we were going to go all out for Black History Month,” Palmer said.

This year’s festivities began on Tuesday, February 6, when the Flik lunch staff, led by head chef Mr. Charles Walker, prepared a soul food style lunch of gumbo, fried chicken, blackened tilapia, braised greens, okra and cornbread.

“Everybody knows one thing that brings anybody together is food…[and food] is always a beautiful way to let somebody embrace a culture,” Palmer said.

Chef Charles carefully curated the menu using inspiration from his childhood.

“[I] based…a lot of it [off] growing up. Obviously I see it a lot but I also tried to do it…with a flare that has a healthier outcome,” Mr. Walker said.

Just this past Thursday, a Black Alumni Panel was featured at school. Former students such as athletic standout Chase Hayden, class of 2017, as well as Asa Toney and Christa Palms, both members of the class of 2010 were in attendance.

The goal, Palmer said, “was to have people from St. George’s who have already graduated [and] are black come down and say ‘hey, I am a black doctor’ or ‘hey, I am a black lawyer’…so middle and high school black students can see [their] options aren’t limited.”

Just yesterday, the whole school gathered and celebrated with a completely student led “Sunday Best” chapel. Everyone was encouraged to dress to impress by wearing their fanciest church clothes. The ceremony was filled with gospel music, a sermon from by Dr. William Smith, III from Berean Missionary Baptist Church and a praise dance performance by junior Niaya Perkins.

Palmer, however, is most looking forward to the assembly at the end of this month, which he describes as more of a festival.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into this,” Palmer said. “The best way to embrace someones culture…[is] being able to see it…the beauty of it, witness[ing] it, hearing it…and I feel like with the festival, that’s everything we’re bringing.

Sophomore Leala Williams, who planned a fashion show that will take place during the festival, said her inspiration was people’s associations with the month.

“Whenever people think about Black History, they tend to automatically assume that we’re going to talk about slavery [and] civil rights,” Williams said. “While those aspects are still important, this year, I wanted to showcase a different side of Black History Month: black excellence.”

Williams’s fashion show will “demonstrate creativity amongst the black community and [show] how the things we…created many decades ago— in this case clothes [and] clothing styles, are still relevant now,” she said.

Although St. George’s has had it’s fair share of difficulties in the past when it comes to diversity, Palmer is excited about the direction the school is headed.

“A couple years…[ago] I was like, ‘Man, I really don’t wanna go to St. George’s. I feel like nobody understands diversity…[and] nobody will let me express myself,’” he said. “But this year specifically, I’ve been able to express myself freely [and] I’ve been taking…steps to make sure that in the future people are able to do that,” he continued.

“St. George’s as a community is actually taking a very good step towards diversity…and I love that,” he noted, “It really makes me excited.”

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