The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity
by Dylan Lee, S. Z. Nishan and Sohei Wu.
To commemorate Black History Month 2021, WSP High School Student Council created an assembly focused on the celebration of the contributions African Americans have made to this nation and a time to reflect on the continued struggle for racial justice. Sophomore council members Sohei Wu and Nico Khan opened the assembly by introducing this year’s Black History Month theme. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History which decides the theme each year announced The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity to honor the legacy of African American families in the context of their storied past and present.
The black family representation and role is characterized as a microcosm of the entire race. The family offers a rich tapestry of images for exploring the African American communities. The invaluable contributions of Black Americans is an integral part of American history. Throughout black history, factors such as slavery, inequality and poverty have put pressure on maintaining family ties, when a better life meant traveling far from home.
Part of a poem written by Danez Smith titled “Principles” was shared with the student audience. Danez is a Black, queer, non-binary, HIV positive writer and Performer from St. Paul, MN. Smith’s work is rooted both in the personal and in a community that extends well beyond their experiences as an American poet wrestling with a national legacy of violence. American poets of color are inspiring a political collective consciousness and discourse around identity and equality.
For reflection and deeper learning about key Black figures that helped shape how the United States as we know it came to be was brought to the student body in a form of experiential exercise using chalk art. The high school community (both on-campus and those at home in remote TRP) were given a strip of paper each with a name of an individual whose accomplishments continue to influence, inspire, and shape American society and the world today. Together the high school walked out to the main street of Rengstorff Ave to write these names with chalks on the sidewalk outside our school building stretching the entire block. Our TRP friends at home were encouraged to do chalk art in front of their homes as well as write a haiku inspired by the individual. And yes, as much as we love Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr., Black history is not limited to the five people we learn about inside our classrooms. Another aspect to note about our chalk art is that it is another canvas of an opportunity to turn ordinary pavement, into an extraordinary reminder of these individuals and a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the transformative work that is needed to heal our evolving world.