By Johnnyana Cime, Boston Prep 9th Grade Student
As young adults, my peers and I are constantly working to create our identities, to figure out who we are and what our purpose is. For most of us, getting a month that is dedicated to our culture and what makes us us gives us a sense of empowerment. Black History Month makes me feel like I am able to accomplish anything I want, as I see Black Excellence highlighted and celebrated all around me. February is the month dedicated to millions of people who are able to share and reflect on their accomplishments, uplift one another, and not have to fear being shunned. As a freshman member of the Phoenix Senate, Boston Prep’s high school student government body, it was important to me that we use this special month to depict and showcase people of color who have excelled, as a source of strength and representation for our students, 74% of whom identify as African American.
Over the course of Black History Month, Phoenix Senate created many opportunities for students to learn and celebrate. We displayed information about famous African Americans around the high school so that as students transitioned from class to class, they had a chance to read about these different people. During our high school community meetings, we talked about many different African Americans who have made history and changed the world for the better and those who continue to do so today. For example, we discussed how last year over 20 women, including many African American women, were elected to serve in Congress, more than ever before. We hosted a panel discussion, bringing together students, faculty, alumni, a police officer, and community members for thoughtful dialogue. In addition, we held a door decorating competition, in which different advisories decorated their doors to highlight a specific person of African American descent. During these events and activities, I witnessed tremendous enthusiasm, engagement, and excitement displayed by our students, and I was amazed by the level of collaboration, seeing everyone coming together as a community. These activities enabled our students to see models of black excellence, letting them know that they too are capable of accomplishing anything they want.
In addition to Phoenix Senate’s own activities, Mr. Foran, Boston Prep’s art teacher, and other students created an interactive art installation, entitled “I am black and I am…,” on the windows of the cafeteria. They painted items representing various positive attributes that we could use to describe ourselves. This activity pushed students beyond learning about other examples of black excellence and encouraged students to see and embrace their own excellence. Posing with representations of strength, brilliance, and more brought a value of self efficacy and self esteem to many students, including myself, and an appreciation of each other and our cultures. At Boston Prep, we strive for all students to succeed and graduate from a four-year college, so seeing others who are like us, people who have succeeded through numerous struggles, increases this idea of self efficacy within each and every one of us. This art installation helped me see how important it is for students to not only learn about other models of black excellence but to see themselves as models of black excellence
Black History Month brought the Boston Prep community together in a new and powerful way, in celebration of those in our community who identify as black. It brought us together as a people, as students, and as one whole family. While our student body represents numerous races, we all had a sense of inclusion and together grew an understanding of black culture and who people of color are. As a freshman, I look forward to three more years of growing this sense of community through Black History Month at Boston Prep. I hope Black History Month continues to be a month not only to celebrate those who are African American outside of our community but a month in which people are empowered to share their own successes, talents, and strengths with the community. I hope to provide opportunities for students to build courage to talk about how they feel about being who they are and what exactly makes them them. We all have our own identities and backgrounds, and I am grateful that Boston Prep is a place where we can celebrate those backgrounds and educate others about who we are!