Marblehead schools observing Black History Month

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

Black History Month is being celebrated in Marblehead Public Schools with daily student announcements, readings, displays, videos and a visit from Keith Jones, a Black activist, educator and hip-hop artist with cerebral palsy.

“We have a lot of commonalities,” Jones told the Marblehead Current, explaining his message to students. “We all like to eat, we all like to breathe, and we all like to laugh. And we all need to have a foundational respect for other people’s humanity and who they are.”

Jones will also be speaking to educators.

“The climate for acceptance is set by adults,” he added.

Activist and artist Keith Jones will speak to Marblehead students as the schools mark Black History Month.

At the Lucretia and Joseph Brown School, which is named after a Black couple who lived in town at the turn of the 19th-century, there are daily announcements about famous Black Americans, including Zalia Avante-Garde, the first Black winner of the National Spelling Bee; Robby Novak, who started a YouTube channel for kids about kindness, hard work and resilience; Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker; Vice President Kamala Harris and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Throughout the month, classroom teachers integrate conversations, stories and create understanding about Black history in Marblehead and in America,” said Principal Mary Maxfield. On Feb. 17, Brown students will learn more about the story of Lucretia and Joseph Brown at a community meeting. 

At the Glover School, in addition to morning announcements and readings, third graders are “learning and writing about the character traits of African Americans that have made large contributions,” said Principal Hope Doran. “Some of the character traits are bravery, perseverance and leadership.”

At the Village School, METCO Director Caja Johnson and some teachers put up posters of historic Black role models and information about each one.

“That next day, a couple of classes actually created a scavenger hunt during advisory based on those people,” said Village Principal Amanda Murphy.

Village teachers also read aloud to students from works by Black children’s author Kwame Alexander.

Veterans Middle School Principal Matthew Fox sent home information with a link to a video of Maya Angelou reciting her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at President Clinton’s inauguration and encouraged parents to discuss it with their children. 

In his email, Fox included several lines of the poem, saying, “The following excerpt speaks directly to the experience of African Americans. Ms. Angelou identifies three African nations that were destroyed by slavery. Reading this passage again, does Ms. Angelou have hope that things can change?”

You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,

Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare

Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am that Tree planted by the River,

Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree

I am yours — your passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain

Cannot be unlived, but if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.

At Marblehead High School, there are student-led messages in the morning announcements, a library display and a Black History Month banner.

At Marblehead Community Charter Public School, there are presentations on supporting Black-owned businesses and the contributions of Black women in science, civil rights, music and the armed forces. Music classes are spotlighting the work of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and more.

“Our fifth graders in art class are doing a collage inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and artist Romare Beardon,” MCCPS Head of School Peter Cohen said. “We curate the artwork on our hallway walls and this month highlight other Black artists.”

Superintendent John Buckey emphasizes the importance of Black History Month in schools.“Celebration of Black History Month provides our students an opportunity to learn about the significant accomplishments of African American to U.S. history and extend their understanding beyond slavery, segregation and civil rights,” he told the Current. “Morgan Freeman said, ‘Black history is American history.’ We take Black History Month as the opportunity to acknowledge both the adversity and accomplishments.”

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