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A Rumination on Black History Month

A Rumination on Black History Month
Rachel Nagler, Director of Community, Equity and Inclusion

For me, Black History Month has always been about finding the past in our present, measuring progress, honoring those who came before, reflecting on how we narrate history, and how we conceptualize Black identity. 

This month on campus, students from SHADES will kick off our activities with a presentation about Black History Month and why it matters. Last month for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students presented a brief history of African Americans at Dana Hall and the historical context of what was happening in the United States at the same time. We hope to deepen and continue that project this month. We have film screenings, discussions, affinity spaces, trips to Black-owned restaurants and businesses, and academic work in the classroom all lined up to make sure we pause and take note of Black lives—both historically and currently.   

This year’s Black History Month national theme is Black Resistance. This is a joyful, powerful, nuanced, challenging and complex theme. It begs questions about what necessitates resistance and why resistance is central to the identities of Black Americans and their lived experience. The annual tradition of celebrating Black history is also a moment of healing.

The recent news out of Memphis of the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols is something that needs a special kind of healing and attention this month as we reflect on the Black experience. It is forcing me to work harder to see the ways in which all of us have internalized, absorbed, and enacted the poison of racism. It is motivating me to work harder to eradicate that from within myself and my community. As adults we strive to create a cocoon of care that surrounds our students as they process the difficult realities of the world. We continue to provide guidance and support as students process this event and many others that weigh heavy on hearts and minds. This is an opportunity for us to remember to make connections, friendships, and build ideas across racial lines with the core of those actions beginning with education and understanding.  

Deeply embedded in the construction of Blackness in this country is a question of humanity. Are Black people fully human, treated and seen as such in this society? That question fills me with dread and discomfort. Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored. This month I will embrace it all, the joys and triumphs of Black people, all they have overcome and continue to overcome. We will engage with all of our students and make sure we understand as a community the significance of progress and the danger of stagnation and regression. Our Upper School students recently engaged in a workshop that focused on cultivating Curiosity, Empathy, and Humility as a framework to address the most complex challenges of our time. I hope to continue and deepen that message and work throughout the month of February and everyday as we strive to be a strong and inclusive community here on campus.