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Students Across Grade Levels Honor Black History Month

Across grade levels at Lausanne, students and teachers have been honoring Black History Month and demonstrating how it is essential to infuse Black History into daily lessons in a meaningful and intentional way during February and beyond.

Lower Schoolers in Alexa Dell's third-grade class acknowledge black figures through daily lessons that help students connect not only accomplishments but also struggles that were apparent centuries ago and still exist in the Black Community today. Through their conversations, the empathetic third-graders have been able to ask questions or provide clarity for themselves and their peers.

"As I was taught, and as I have seen Black History taught, we so many times view Black History Month from the perspective of greatest accomplishments and firsts," said Ms. Dell. "While that is ok, I felt it necessary to acknowledge these accomplishments and how our nation developed the structures that kept Black people out of certain spaces or refused them certain opportunities, regardless of their merit or talent."

The third-graders love and look forward to the opportunity every day to learn, engage and respond with their teacher and their peers about their newfound information. 

"I hope they learn that besides the 28 days in February, Black History is intertwined with all history," said Ms. Dell. "Black history is American history, and I hope they understand that we as Americans still do not have a complete understanding of the Black experience and its influence on all our lives."

For sixth-graders in Kyle Lawrence's class, discussions have focused on highlighting the "Unsung Heroes of American History." 

"We are discussing heroes that have made a lasting impact on History that we do not hear about every year," said Mr. Lawrence. "This approach is personal and connected to what we do in America and our history. It usually comes with a long and honest discussion about our past and addressing it as to how we can make a better present and eventually, future."

So far, students highlighted Phillis Wheatley, a Black Enslaved Poet from the Revolutionary Era who faced discrimination and had people questioning her ability to create poetry successfully, even if the proof was in her writing. They've also discussed Alexander Augusta, a surgeon from the Civil War era who fought for the Union Soldiers, led Freedmen's Hospital in Washington DC and was one of the first black faculty members at Howard University. Another discussion involved Loving V. Virginia (1967), the Supreme Court hearing about allowing interracial couples to get married. The students focused on how important it was for the Loving family to break through these barriers and take this to the Supreme Court to change how Americans view marriage and the "pursuit of happiness" aspect of the inalienable rights. 

"My mom taught me a lot about my culture, and it's nice to know someone aside from Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks," said Avery Finch '27, a student in the class. "It's not every day you learn about other black history figures, and no one should have to dig deep to find inspiring African-American people. It should be widely spread around as a resource to everyone. People need a moment to think about people like Augusta and the Lovings."

Along with crucial discussions on historical and modern-day figures, Mr. Lawrence shares daily facts, some of which are lesser-known, acknowledging successes and inspiring information about the black community. These facts have ranged from details about the Civil Rights era to Lonnie Johnson, the aerospace engineer who invented the Super Soaker and the Nerf Gun. 

Upper Schoolers in Dr. Wade Linebaugh's English classes have been the work of Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay in English HL & SL, and 10th grade English is close to wrapping up their unit on Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This month, the class is diving deeper into the work: the first major novel published by a black woman. The story signifies giving power to speech and a woman finding her voice in her community. 

"Studying Black authors in the literature classroom is important not just in February, but as a curricular commitment to understanding literature itself," said Dr. Linebaugh. "To study American literature without studying African-American literature, for example, would be a massive mistake. Black culture is an elemental component of American culture, and that needs to be built into our understanding of education. Studying Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God during Black History Month works well precisely because it’s an opportunity to discuss and critically reflect on this exact matter."

As our Lynx focus on remembering black history and honoring the successes and struggles, Lausanne has been reflecting on the moments from over the summer when the murder of George Floyd prompted questions and discussion regarding inclusion at Lausanne. Recognizing the need to better support diversity and inclusion on our campus, a Task Force was created to facilitate further discussion throughout the community, make recommendations and guide change. 

Since launching in June, Lausanne's Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has been committed to building a model inclusive community that embraces diverse values, opinions, beliefs, backgrounds, and each individual's uniqueness.

Our students have the opportunity to join monthly task force meetings led by Dr. Noma Anderson. These meetings give our Lynx a vital platform to express themselves, voice their concerns and continue to promote change and make Lausanne's campus environment the best possible. 

"The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has been an amazing experience thus far," said Justice Crawford '21. "As a councilmember, I have had a first-hand account of discussing important issues regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and dated policies within our Lausanne community. I'm extremely proud of the work that we have done and the work we will continue to do to better our community in the future."

Posted by Shayne Dotson at 14:30