How PDS honored Black History Month

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Courtesy of Pexels (RODNAE Productions)

Sanjana Paramesh, Online Opinions Editor

For over a decade, PDS has hosted an annual Black History Month celebration to honor and cherish the myriad of contributions that our Black brothers and sisters have made to our community and beyond. For the first time, this year’s BHM celebration was held over Zoom on February 22, emceed by juniors Tyanna Miller and Tyler Robinson,, co-heads of the Black Student Union (BSU). The event was organized by the BSU and CMDT. Those who attended had the opportunity to hear from several community members who shared insightful thoughts on their identity, experiences, and important people in their lives. 

After Head of School Mr. Stellato gave some opening remarks, noting that this celebration is an “essential part of the life of this school,” the event was turned over to Miller and Robinson, who charismatically introduced speakers from the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools, all who shared their thoughts on the importance of BHM. To start, lower schoolers dedicated their segments of the presentation to Black role models in their lives, from parents and grandparents to community members. As is the case with most presentations, they truly set the expectations high, and what followed most definitely lived up to that precedent. We heard from middle schoolers who recited poems from former Maryland Poet Laureate and accomplished writer Lucille Clifton, all highlighting various aspects of the Black experience. 

There were various other poems read aloud by members of the community from authors including Amanda Gorman, Elizabeth Alexander, and Ijeoma Umebinyuo. It was then time to shift the focus to another cultural aspect of great African American accomplishment: music. Middle and Upper School band director Channing McCullough gave a captivating presentation on various musical influences that Black artists have had on various genres. Most notably was her emphasis on the Bo Diddley rhythm, a rhythm found originally in Ghanaian music and popularized by Diddley, and its effect on modern rock, jazz, and pop music. She showed how this rhythm can be found everywhere if one were to look, a classic example of great musical impact. 

Speaking of rhythm, one of the highlights of the BHM celebration was the original spoken word poem presented by juniors Ida Perez Jimenez and Andre Williams. They have a conversation–one that should be echoed throughout the community to achieve a better understanding of the Black experience–about the years of atrocities that Black Americans have faced. They spoke on how “Society is dominated by white voices./ Society is dominated by white appearances.” They emphasized the need that many young Black people feel to whitewash their demeanor, their appearance, and their language–but how it is acceptable to appropriate African-American Vernacular English and cultural hairstyles. It is conversations like this one that is necessary in order to truly understand, or at least try to, the Black experience in America. 

The keynote speaker of the event was Mr. Michael Reed ‘03, the Chief of Staff to Congressman Eric Swalwell D-CA, who gave an overview of the legacy behind Black History Month and why we celebrate it, as well as the effect that misinformation has had on Black-led movements. He gave some remarks about his experience being in the Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection and concluded by saying that though much has changed for the better at PDS since he was here, that there is still much work ahead. 

With various community members taking part and sharing their thoughts, role models, works of famous Black artists, and more, the Black History Month celebration was a truly engaging and insightful event. It is important to note that Black history is often taught from a non-Black point of view, and hearing first hand from members of the PDS community who identify as Black was a wonderful change that PDS can hopefully see more of in the future. A huge thanks to BSU co-heads Miller and Robinson, as well as BSU faculty advisor Alana Allen, CMDT chair Caroline Lee, and all of the members of CMDT for organizing a spectacular event to honor Black History Month!

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