Every February, The Grosse Pointe Academy celebrates Black History Month with a number of activities. Students learn about historic and contemporary Black figures, and a favorite tradition is “Buddy Reads” in the Fisher Library, where students in Grades 5-8 read books about African American history and anti-racism aloud to their younger buddies in Grades 1-4. Last year, Main School students and faculty came together for an all-school event, where students used fingerprints to create a collaborative art project, read “Let the Children March,” by Monica Clark-Robinson and sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
This school year, Academy faculty had to shift gears due to Covid-19 protocols. Teachers continued to share stories by African American authors and about African American history and anti-racism throughout the curriculum, including library, language arts, social studies and during Daily5 routines, but they also came up with new activities, many of which were so enjoyed that they are sure to become a part of our Black History Month curriculum for years to come.
The most popular activity was the installation of a school-wide gallery of door displays that students helped create, featuring images, facts, quotes and major accomplishments of inspiring African Americans. Art classes featured a different Black artist for each grade level, music classes exposed students to Black composers and classical musicians and world language teachers integrated contributions by Black Americans who emigrated from French- and Spanish-speaking countries.
Our hybrid learning model offered us the opportunity to bring a variety of virtual visitors into the classroom. Visiting GPA parents and friends shared inspiring stories of historical Black figures or their own family history, contributions and careers through visual presentations. Some special guests prepared hands-on activities to go with their lessons, such as the making of leave-in conditioner to compliment the teaching of entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam C.J. Walker and a traffic light craft made from paper towel rolls and construction paper to accompany a lesson on inventor, Garrett Morgan.
Our Black History Month curriculum this year proved to be more robust and successful than ever, due to the creativity of our faculty, students and families who found new ways to teach, learn and celebrate. Next year, we hope to move forward with plans to host community anti-racism book reads and discussions and are committed to continuing buddy reads and movie nights as soon as we are able.
Thank you to the following virtual visitors: Russell Baltimore for his story on his career as an architect and role as Assistant Director of Design Review at the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, Reverend Jonathan Betts Fields (aka Reverend JB) for his lesson on Jackie Robinson, Melanca Clark Turay for the story of her father, abstract expressionist painter, Ed Clark, Rian English Barnhill for her lesson on inventor Garrett Morgan, Linda Hendricks and Kelli Wright for their lesson on entrepreneur and philanthropist, Madam C.J. Walker, Nikkia Matthews for her lesson on dancer, singer, actress and civil rights activist, Lena Horne, Jonathan Quarles for his story of his great uncle, Dr. Benjamin Quarles, historian, administrator, educator and writer, as well as his own career path as a writer. For more information on books and resources found in our Black History Month libraries, visit this link.