Southside High School students embrace Black History Month

Published 9:51 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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By Clark Curtis, For the Washington Daily News

Twenty-five students from Southside High School spent much of their day, Thursday, embracing and soaking in Washington’s Black history. It was all part of a student led effort in recognition of Black History Month.

“We really wanted to do something unique and different this year for Black History Month,” said Southside history teacher, Raven Cathey. “I advertised for a student-led Black History committee earlier the year and was so excited about the number of students who showed interest in participating and leading it. Throughout the month they have led in coming up with and announcing over the PA system, facts and stories about influential Black people. Each week includes different themes such as sports figures, musicians, and political and civil rights leaders. We are also holding an art contest, with the help of the local NAACP, and will be announcing the winners at the end of the month.”

The first ever field trip as part of Black History Month, included a bus tour of the Freedom Trail with PS Jones alum, Mr. James Smallwood, a tour of the P.S. Jones Museum of African-American Education, and concluded with a stop at the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum. “As a history teacher it is so important to be able to paint a full picture of what our Black history is and what it looks like,” said Cathey. “For centuries, so many of those voices and stories have not been recorded or listened to. It is important for us to understand where we have come from and where we are going. The kids need to understand this is all of our history.”

Said A’lek Blount, co-chair of the Black History Committee, “It was really fun to be able to select different quotes for the day and plan events throughout Black History Month. I’ve learned a lot this month, including here in Washington today. I believe it is something everyone my age should be able to experience, as I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

“It really meant a lot for me to be a part of this field trip today,” said student, Kah’Lani White. “Most of the time when it comes to Black history, we are only told that our people were beaten, battered, and oppressed. Today, we learned that our people were very intelligent when they came here from Africa. Some were scientists, others were farmers. We often hear about famous names, but as we learned today, there are so many other Black people who did great things during slave times or during the civil rights movement. It really is empowering to hear all of those stories as it makes me feel proud to be a Black man in this community. I encourage anyone my age to come explore and learn more.”

Throughout the year, the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum hosts field trips for area students, as well as others from around the state. Museum director Leesa Jones and her husband Milton also spend a good part of their time traveling to other schools.

“It is important for our school students who live in the greater Washington area or elsewhere, that they not only can learn history, but become a part of it,” said Jones. “By doing so, it makes it come alive for them and piques their interest. History is not always complete and sufficiently shared for so many people groups. To be able to share documented and carefully vetted research is very important, because it is a part of these students’ history, and allows them to take ownership of it.”

In recognition of Black History Month, Clark Curtis will be taking a closer look at some of the people, places, and events that have helped mold the story of Washington’s wealth of history and her interesting people.