Black History Month Reflections
March 2, 2022
This year, students were the creative force behind SSCA’s upper school Black History Month celebration. As February comes to a close, senior Dhenia Mercier and head of school Sean Hunley reflect on this year’s celebration and its ongoing significance in SSCA student life. Dhenia is the co-founder of SSCA’s Students of Color Association (SOCA), a diverse student-led organization that works to promote deep understanding and vibrant relationships among all SSCA students, inspired by the principles of Micah 6:8, our school verse.
Reflections from Dhenia
Black History Month at SSCA has always been run by a teacher and a small group of students that were willing to help, so it made it difficult for them to really take a deep dive into Black history other than segregation, civil rights, and slavery. When I sat down with my S.O.C.A board members we really wanted to emphasize the celebration of not only Black history but also Black influence and Black culture. We wanted to touch on how Black Americans have played a pivotal role in American history from the day that they came to this country. The goal was to showcase Black culture in a positive light and to show SSCA the things they have seen throughout history that have either been influenced by Black Americans or have been created by Black Americans.
What I feel like we have accomplished is a new outlook on what Black History Month is. I feel like by doing interactive events and trivia chapels and assemblies we were able to make Black History Month relatable – not this foreign thing that only happens in February, but something that we can talk about throughout the whole year. One of my board members, Ketsia, said, “This Black History Month was most definitely different from the past ones we had. It helps give us the positive story of what happened in the past, and puts smiles on many students’ faces.” S.O.C.A was very grateful to be able to have full creative direction of what Black History Month was going to look like and we are so happy with the response that we’re getting. People are now having conversations about Black fashion and Black music. SSCA has come a long way, and the fact that we can experience Black History Month in a whole new way and be open to it and be open to having conversations that we wouldn’t normally have is one of the many goals that S.O.C.A had for Black History Month.
Reflections from Mr. Hunley
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my 20+ years in education: trust students with real responsibility. Invite them into the educational process – not as subjects or spectators, but as active agents and decision-makers. The times I have done this, three things have happened: (a) students come up with ideas I never would have thought of; (b) the results are far better than anything I could have accomplished without their voice and creativity; and (c) I learn a lot!
Black History Month — my first here at SSCA — has reconfirmed and even deepened that faith in students.
Of course, classroom experiences orchestrated by our faculty provided vital content-area pathways into Black history — everything from read-alouds, research projects, hallway displays, and a “gallery walk” in the Lower School, to studies of Black thinkers, writers, and innovators in the Upper School. I deeply appreciate teachers’ thoughtful integration of this month’s theme into their classroom experiences at every grade level!
At the Upper School, though, it was the students who really ramped up the “celebration” factor, with SOCA taking the lead. Through the lens of fashion through the decades, the student-driven Cultural Fashion Show spotlighted important historical moments in the quest for civil rights and racial justice. It was enlightening in away that a talk or essay could never be: I was struck by this evocative, visual timeline of creative exuberance in the face of injustice. It was engaging: everyone on stage and everyone in the audience was totally and joyfully engrossed in the program. It was celebratory: we all got to experience not only African-American fashion and music through the decades, but also, more generally, the genius, creativity, resilience, and strength represented in those trends. It was beautiful: the clothing was fabulous — and the student models showed off those fashions with pride and flare. And, of course, it was fun!
The Art and Music Expo, an evening event open to all SSCA families, was a bit more reflective, featuring interactive displays of visual art by SSCA students and noted Black artists, a slide show about Haitian world-changers, poetry readings, and a partial encore of the fashion show. The opportunity to speak with students about their visual art, and the ideas and experiences behind it, was a gift that I cherish.
All this in addition to a trivia competition and a gospel music presentation during chapel periods!
The student organizers of these events accomplished what they set out to do: to embrace every member of the SSCA upper school in a shared, celebratory experience. These student leaders acknowledged that Black history in our country has been marked by horrific injustices that continue to reverberate in the American experience, and the festive tone of Black History Month was not intended to ignore or diminish those truths. Rather, as SOCA co-founder Dhenia Mercier pointed out after the fashion show, our Black History Month underlined the irrepressible creativity and brilliance of those who endured great oppression and, in the midst of it, offered culture-shaping, world-changing, life-giving contributions in every sphere — gifts for all to gratefully share and enjoy.
In other words, Black history, we learned, is not parenthetical or parallel. The history we were discovering together this month is the shared story of American history.
To share in one another’s stories — perhaps that is the main gift offered by these student leaders, one that exemplifies our mission of “developing Christian character” in order exemplify “what is good, and what the Lord requires” of us: justice, mercy, and a humble walk with God (Micah 6:8).