Lakota Celebrates Black History Month

Lakota Celebrates Black History Month
Posted on 02/09/2021
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black history monthThe theme throughout Lakota this month is clear - and it’s more than just Valentine’s Day. From bulletin board displays, book studies and trivia to Spotify playlists, slideshows and read-alouds, Lakota students and staff are finding creative ways to celebrate Black History Month.  


In Lakota’s early childhood schools up through the high schools, students and staff, alike, are surrounded this month by the most influential African Americans in American history. “This is a priority for us because we want everyone to know that black history is American history,” said Rikki Bell, a Lakota West teacher who also serves as the building’s Champion for Change. The district’s cultural proficiency training program, led by building Champions, equips other staff with skills, resources and strategies to build a stronger culture of inclusiveness in our schools. 


An extension of Lakota’s Outreach, Diversity and Inclusion Department (LODI), building Champions are driving this month’s activities, but in many cases right alongside their students. At Lakota West, for example, the student diversity group - Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Action (IDEA) - has been the one selecting the figures featured during morning announcements and on posters they’ve made and displayed around the building. 


At Freedom Elementary, students present a daily fact and trivia question on the school’s daily Freedom Television Network. Guidance Counselor Audrey Young also designed an interactive Periodic Table of Black History down the school’s main hallway. A QR code accompanying each profile leads students to more facts about famous authors, athletes, artists, musicians, politicians, scientists and more. 


The same front-and-center spotlight on famous figures comes in many different forms, including a looping slideshow on TVs throughout the building at both high schools and creative bulletin boards that hundreds of students and staff pass daily, like the “Dreams for the World” one at Hopewell ECS. The school kicked off Black History Month with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, asking students to reflect on the dream they wish for the world. At Cherokee Elementary, students even received their own laminated bookmark, each one recognizing a different famous figure. 


At Lakota East, the student diversity group has been the creator of a school-wide door decorating contest. Teachers are teaming up with their students to research a famous African American and then capture as much as possible about his/her life on their classroom door. 


“With everything going on in the world around us, this kind of work is really important. Every little thing helps build bridges in spite of our differences,” said Lakota East teacher Michelle Wilkerson, who is assisting the student group with the contest. Likewise, she shared that similar ideas are already forming to celebrate upcoming months that celebrate women and multiculturalism, for example. 


Similarly, LODI team member and Champions for Change leader Aisha Moore stands by the group’s commitment to celebrating diversity all year long and not just in the officially sanctioned month. “Black History Month gives us an opportunity to zoom in on one group’s unique contributions to our history, but the truth is we are working toward recognizing and celebrating one another’s differences every single day,” said Moore, reiterating that part of the Champions’ role is to continuously serve as a resource of books, songs, websites and more to use in the classroom and open students’ eyes to that kind of mindset. 


While this month’s list of resources have trended toward black history, Champions like Teresa Elabbassi at Hopewell ECS acknowledge that the intent is to sprinkle them and others representing a range of cultures throughout the entire school year. Some books, like the one she shared at the start of the new semester, simply promote qualities like goodness, kindness and integrity toward others. 


“Black History Month is one among many conversation starters getting us closer to the root of our work, which is simply to help students to first recognize one another’s differences and then find an appreciation for them,” Moore said.