Academics » Black History Month

Black History Month

During the Month of February, the St. Edmund Prep community celebrated Black History Month through classroom experiences across all academic disciplines.
Mrs. McGinnis' IB World History Class took a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to tour the exhibit Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room.  The trip was designed to give students the opportunity to take their experience as historiographers on the road and encounter a practical learning experience for Black History Month.
The class prepared for the visit by learning about the history of Seneca Village and the Afrofuturist creative movement. The class was tasked with understanding how the two connect by focusing on the question "What would life look like if Seneca Village still existed?" Students were asked to reflect on the period room and how historians can use this exhibit to inform future generations about the past, present and future of the African American community.
All Computer Technology classes researched the contributions of Black pioneers to Computer Science and Technology. After completing their research students created infographics and timelines to share their research and reflected on the racial and gender disparity in the technology arena today. Students discussed ways to make the study of computer science more accessible to students in our school community.
Ms. Breen's Religion 10 students researched black saints, priests, and leaders of the Church to learn more about their contributions and the important role that the Black Catholic experience plays in the life of the Church.
During Black History Month, Mrs. McGrath's Chemistry and Environmental Science classes paid tribute to Dr. Bettye Washington Greene and her work on polymers. Dr. Greene was the first Black female Ph.D. chemist to work in a professional position at the Dow Chemical Company, where she made significant achievements in the development of latex and other polymers. SEP students created polymers of their own and examined how changing the composition of a polymer affects its properties. They also learned about Dr. Greene's life and the challenges she faced as a Black female scientist in mid-20th century United States.
Ms. Sullivan's Chemistry classes investigated the contributions on famous Black Chemists including Alice Ball, Marie Maynard Daly and Percy Lavon Julian. Percy Lavon Julian created an 11-step synthesis of physostigmine, a treatment for glaucoma. Students performed their own synthesis reaction and learned about the different calculations that need to be done after they obtain their product. 
In observance of Black History Month, Ms. DeLeon's Spanish classes  worked on a poster project researching the lives and special accomplishments of Afro-Latinos. 
In celebration of Black History Month, students in Dr. Unger's AP United States History class visited the Tenement Museum to see their new exhibition: A Union of Hope: 1869, which tells the story of Joseph and Rachel Moore, Black New Yorkers who made their home in Lower Manhattan’s tenements in the 1860s and 1870s. The exhibit traces Joseph’s history from his free Black community of Belvidere, New Jersey, through his family’s migration to New York City, and the community he and his wife Rachel built in their neighborhoods and workplaces. Joseph works as a waiter and later a coachman, driving other New Yorkers in a horse-drawn carriage, while Rachel “keeps house,” cooking and cleaning for their household. In their tenement apartment, they live with an Irish washerwoman, Rose Brown; Rose’s Irish and Black son, Louis Munday; and Rachel’s sister-in-law from her first marriage, Jane Kennedy, a dressmaker.
Shining light on the world of collaboration and tension in which Black New Yorkers and Irish immigrants lived during these pivotal years after the Civil War, students explored: How did race and racism shape access to opportunity, social mobility, and the “American Dream” for the descendants of these families? What were the hopes they had for their children and grandchildren? How can learning about these hopes, as well as the different paths each family took, and the differing obstacles in their way, help us understand American history better, and our own families’ place within it?
Ms. McEvoy's IB Theory of knowledge examined the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to help them explore the knowledge question "Are there some events that we have an obligation to preserve as historical knowledge?". The TOK students first learned the facts surrounding the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre through articles and videos, many of which came from the Tulsa, Oklahoma historical society. They then had very thoughtful and insightful discussions about various aspects of the event, including its social and political causes, the impact it had at the time, and why learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre is impactful today. 
Ms. Hanley's Creative Writing class visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to see The Ways of Langston Hughes: Griff Davis and Black Artists in the Making. The students were given the opportunity to learn more in depth about the Harlem Renaissance and the influence it had on Black culture, and the way notable figures like Langston Hughes influenced other Black creatives and intellectuals responding to, and shaping, the current events of the time. 
Mr. Zwosta's students explored profiles of African American mathematicians and their notable accomplishments to the field of Mathematics. Students pair shared and engaged in whole class discussions about the mathematicians described and reflected on the impact of their work on the world of mathematics today.
Mr. Todero's Weight Training students learned about the obstacles and difficulties that African American athletes faced in order to break the color barrier in all of the different professional sports. Students then picked a famous African American athlete of their choosing to learn more about physically. In groups of two, they researched off-season or in-season workout plans that their athlete follows to stay in shape. Throughout this course, students learn about the different muscle groups and exercises that can be completed to keep all of our muscles strong and toned. After replicating some of their favorite athletes' workouts, most students were surprised just how hard it is to keep up with the demands of being a professional athlete on a daily basis. This activity tied in the history of African American athletes breaking the color barrier in sports with experiencing the vigorous physical training necessary in order to compete at the highest level possible.
Mr. Todero's Health students focused their attention to how heart disease is the leading cause of death in the African American Population (1 in every 5 people). Students were asked to create their own Gym in their local neighborhood and give details as to what machines/activities are in the gym. They presented and explained the name of the gym, monthly cost, group classes, 1 on 1 training sessions, and athletic areas including basketball, swimming, volleyball, and kickboxing. The overall point of this lesson is to understand how various cardiovascular machines and activities increase your heart rate to improve respiratory function. Heart disease is preventable through healthy lifestyle choices and understanding different ways through exercise that we can stop the history of heart disease from repeating itself is important.
Words Create Our World
How does language influence the way we think, act and perceive the world? 
Ms. Kowkabany's students explored the power of words both spoken and written. Students identified the effect of both positive and negative words in their own lives and in society.  It was through analysis, composition and performance of spoken word poetry that the students  addressed issues of social justice and it raised awareness of how they can make a change by using their own words.
Students studied Maya Angelou's poem "On the Pulse of Morning" and Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb" for the powerful messages that they conveyed to their audience.  Maya Amgleou was the first black female to be asked to write and present her  poem at a presidential inauguration.  Amanda Gorman was the second black female and the youngest to write and present her poem during a presidential inauguration. 
At the end of the week, students were asked to write a poem as if they were going to recite it to the American people. Students chose a theme and used literary elements and powerful words to communicate their message. Their poems were written to inspire people to make a change by learning from the past, engaging in the present and hoping for unity in the future.  
Ms. Howell's students discussed spoken word poetry and poetry slams for Black History Month. They listened to a spoken word poem by Jamilia Lyiscott called "3 Ways to Speak English" where she discusses code-switching from African-American Vernacular English, Trinidadian English Creole, and the English of the dominant culture that she uses in academia. Students talked about how English is a fluid language and how there is a false hierarchy among dialects. In other words, there is really no "right way" to speak English. Students then searched for spoken word poems that they found interesting, and we shared them and discussed them the next day.  Some students presented spoken word poems from their own culture.  For example, Eli Venetian presented a poem in Portuguese about multi-ethnic peace and equality.
During Black History Month, Physics classes learned about James West, co-inventor of the electret microphone, which is the microphone used in much of our modern technology, for example phones and hearing aids. West's development of this new technology allowed microphones to become very small, making it possible to put them in portable technology.  SEP students created condenser microphones of their own using graphite sticks, batteries and matchboxes, and examined how changing the dimensions of a microphone affects its sound-transmitting properties. They also learned about West's life and the challenges he faced as a Black scientist in mid-20th century United States.
Students investigated the stylistic and cultural origins of Blues music and demonstrated the power of art to transform negative human emotion (via the medium of music and poetry) into aesthetic and cathartic experiences, by reenacting a performance of Weary Blues by African-American poet Langston Hughes and the Doug
Parker Band.

Students begin a cursory reading of Weary Blues then analyzed the poem for apparent themes and motifs (i.e. oppression, segregation, catharsis). Students then listened to various examples of early 19th C. Blues music (field hollers, work songs) developed by African slaves in the American South. A brief comparative analysis followed in which students identify resemblances between the themes in the poem and the characteristics of the
Students researched different black inventors and the struggles that they needed to overcome. One of the inventors researched was Lonnie Johnson, who invented the SuperSoaker using water propulsion. Students then designed and created water propulsion boats. 
The Juniors and Seniors created collaborative paintings based on Alma Woodsey Thomas’ signature abstract style. Alma Woodsey Thomas’ painting “Resurrection” currently hangs in the White House dining room; it was the first artwork by an African-American woman to become part of the White House Collection.
The Freshman were introduced to Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Laolu Senbanjo. Known professionally as Laolu NYC, he has incorporated his culture and spirituality into all of his designs. Laolu is one of a few contemporary artists chosen by Nike to create one-of-a-kind, custom sneaker designs. Studio Art 1 students chose relevant symbolism and designed patterns which were used to create their own unique sneaker designs.
Studio Art 2 students were inspired by the work and message of Reginald Laurent: “My art imitates life because it is representative of the diversity and inclusion of every culture, the backbone of what makes the world such an interesting place. The artistic irony and true narrative are reflected in the various stages during the execution of my process. My creations go through a regentrification process, and the intended result is a multi-cultural amalgamation of color that can be universally appreciated. My canvas is the only place I know where every color can exist in perfect harmony yet maintain its own individuality. It is the only place I know where I can mix, manipulate and integrate beautiful pigments and hues of colors, and every single color is equally significant. Each color has its own place and space and purpose and complements, respects and adds to the totality of the work. I try to do on canvas what we can’t seem to do on earth.” -Reginald Laurent
New Media Design students created VR art exhibits featuring works of prominent Black artists.
During our Black History Month lesson, students engaged in a two day interactive scavenger hunt of famous African American athletes who made significant contributions to the sports world. They navigated stations featuring iconic athletes such as Michael Jordan, Pelé, Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. At each station, students not only learned about the achievements and legacies of these athletes but also honed their own athletic skills through basketball shooting, soccer drills, sprinting, boxing techniques, and long jump practice. By actively participating in these activities, students gained a deeper appreciation for the resilience, determination, and groundbreaking achievements of these African American sports icons. They discovered how these athletes challenged stereotypes, paved the way for future generations, and left a lasting impact on their respective sports, inspiring countless individuals worldwide. Through this hands-on experience, students recognized the importance of diversity and representation within the athletic realm.
In this 3 day yoga lesson honoring Black History Month, students explored the profound yet often underestimated contributions of African American yogis to the yoga community. Through collaborative research, students uncovered the life stories, teachings, and philosophies of prominent figures such as Krishna Kaur, Dianne Bondy, Jana Long, Yirser Ra Hotep, Chelsea Jackson Roberts, and Nicole Cardoza. They not only learned about the diverse perspectives and practices within yoga but also recognized how these yogis have championed inclusivity and diversity. By designing yoga flow sequences inspired by their assigned yogis, students creatively expressed their understanding and appreciation for the legacies of African American yogis. Through presentations and discussions, they reflected on the significance of honoring these legacies, both within their personal yoga practices and in broader communities. This lesson empowered students to embrace the interconnectedness of yoga and Black history, fostering a deeper understanding of cultural diversity and resilience in the journey towards mindfulness and well-being.