Black History Month 2024

Black History Month 2024

Throughout February, Burroughs students and faculty members are celebrating Black History Month with daily performances and presentations in morning assembly, including:

  • Ms. Muhammad (History Fellow) kicked off Black History Month with a presentation on the roots of hip hop as both a culture and a musical genre. 
  • Internationally renowned jazz pianist and past JBS parent Peter Martin performed "Harmony in Heritage: Celebrating Peace and Pioneers in Jazz" in the Commons.
  • Mr. Roberts (History Fellow) spoke about Edward Bouchet, an American physicist and the first Black person to earn a PhD. 
  • Ms. Pietz (Performing Arts) sang "If It's Magic" by Stevie Wonder, a pioneer across a range of genres that include R&B, pop, soul, gospel, funk, and jazz. She was accompanied by Mr. Estes (Performing Arts) on piano.
  • Alex Brooks '26 read a poem from For Every One, a book of poems by Jason Reynolds. Later this month, the JBS library will livestream a virtual author talk with Reynolds and Brendan Kieley about their young adult novel, All American Boys (2 pm Wednesday, February 21, in the MakerSpace). The event is hosted by the New York Public Library as part of its nationwide Books For All: Teen Banned Book Club. 
  • Delali Suggs-Akaffu '27 spoke about the life and legacy of Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Jazz."
  • Gabrielle Moore '25 and Madison Moore '25 spoke about the history of majorette dancing, a style of dance that dates back to the late 1960s and draws from modern dance, jazz, ballet, stepping, and hip hop. "Majorette is a staple of Black American culture and HBCU culture," they explained. "In these spaces, Black women celebrate sisterhood, their Blackness, their passion for dance, and unapologetically define womanhood on their own terms." Assembly closed with a majorette performance by JBS students to Beyoncé's "Formation."
  • Ms. Rougeau (Science) spoke about her experiences as a Black woman in the military and the STEM field.
  • Ms. Giles (College Counseling) and Mr. Furnace (PE/Athletics) gave an introduction to the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a group of nine historically African American fraternities and sororities. They spoke about the history of these organizations and highlighted notable members of "the Divine 9" — including several JBS faculty/staff members — and shared a video of a probate, a tradition that incorporates fraternity chants, hymns, and marches to celebrate a chapter's new members.
  • Claire Price '28 spoke about the importance of positive black representation in the media and highlighted some of her favorite TV shows about Black life, including Sister, Sister, Smart Guy, The Proud Family, and black•ish. Claire also recommended several books, including Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson), Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.
  • Dr. DesPrez (English) spoke about the life and legacy of her friend, the late Jonathan Smith, PhD. Dr. Smith was a poet and a professor of both American and African American studies at Saint Louis University. He was also an activist who stood in solidarity with SLU students following the 2014 killings of Michael Brown Jr. and VonDerrit Meyers, and served as a liaison between protestors and university administrators, which eventually led to the Clock Tower Accords (a set of 13 DEI commitments made by the university).
  • Dr. Smith (History) spoke about the history of spirituals, music that is "essential to the African American experience and to American history itself." He continued: "These classic American songs acknowledge pain and address it in a therapeutic way. Blues, jazz, modern gospel, and rock 'n' roll all owe a debt of gratitude to their cultural precursor, the spiritual."

    Ms. Neymour, who sits at our Clayton Road desk, sang the spiritual "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." 
  • In honor of Black History Month and Valentine's Day, the Film Club hosted a screening of Rye Lane, a Black British rom-com set in South London.
  • Ayomide Ajakaiye '25 spoke about Afrobeats, a musical genre that combines West African pop music, hip hop, dance hall, R&B, and EDM in ways she described as "very vibe-y and danceable." She also shared some of her favorite Nigerian artists, including Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Arya Starr.
  • Monét Witherspoon '24 read "Your Country," a poem by an unknown writer.
  • Elle Smith '29 spoke about her great-aunt, Betty Smith Williams, the first Black person to graduate from the nursing school at Case Western Reserve University and the first Black person to teach at the university level in California. She is also a co-founder of the National Black Nurses Association (1971), and served as its president from 1995 to 1999.
  • Ricco Martin '27 (vocals) and Noah Clark '26 (piano) performed "Simply Beautiful" by legendary soul singer Al Green.
  • Mr. Bloch (English) read a poem, A Poet to His Baby Son, by James Weldon Johnson, a writer and a civil rights activist who was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Shayla Danzie '24 read "Still I Rise" by American poet Maya Angelou.
  • Lucia del Pilar '24 spoke about Afro-Latinidad (individuals of Latin America or of Latin American descent who are also of African ancestry) on the island of Hispañola. She highlighted important Afro-Lantinidad figures throughout history, as well as notable Afro-Latinidad artists and athletes (Wyclef, Basquiat, Cardi B, Zoe Saldana, and David Ortiz, to name just a few).

This post will be updated throughout the month. 

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