Black History Month ends, conversations continue


Photo by Maraki Tamrat '23

DISCUSS Black Students Association (BSA) affinity group members Or- rin Batts ‘23, Caleb Johnson ‘25, Alana Andrews ‘26, and Ana Flemming ‘24 discuss racial matters during a lunch meeting. “I think there’s an opportu- nity for that group [the BSA] to do educational outreach, and there’s a way for students to get more involved,” said BSA co-sponsor Janelle Sterling.

Aditya Kutty '23, Lifestyles Staff

Black students are looking beyond Black History Month towards the future with mixed views on the school’s teaching of Black History. During diversity week, which coincided with the last week of Black History Month, John Palmer, a Professor of Educational Studies at Colgate University warned members about diversity weeks and Black History Months that discuss diversity for the week and might forget about it for the remainder of the year. Two weeks after the end of Black History Month, members of the Greenhills community are ambivalent on whether or not Greenhills continues to discuss Black issues and teach Black literature and culture throughout the year. 

Chiney Anwunah ‘23 said she believes Black history isn’t talked about enough, and that she hasn’t really seen much discussion of it both during Black History Month and even after it ended. She understands that while Greenhills might not want to engage in behavior that could be construed as virtue signaling by discussing it for a month and forgetting about it afterwards, she sees value in focusing on Black issues for a month and giving people valuable time to reflect on Black history.

“I’m not sure that in many of my classes I’ve discussed enough Black history at all even during the month unless the BSA is doing something to help talk about it. It kinda goes unnoticed,” said Anwunah. “Greenhills tries not to be a school that’s signaling, but I think that there is some importance when it comes to focusing on it for some time. I understand why we don’t want to seem like the kind of people to be signaling, but sometimes it seems like there’s no care for it.”

Austin Andrews ‘23, said that Greenhills is doing enough to teach Black history and educate students about Black culture and literature outside of Black History Month. Andrews does however worry that sometimes students may not take these attempts to teach Black history seriously, making jokes and engaging in humor that is sometimes ignorant of the historical experiences of Black people. 

“Greenhills does enough to teach Black history outside of Black History Month. I think that any course that teaches a lesson in Black literature provides students with the ability to paint a picture for themselves,” said Andrews. “But I also think that you can always do more. I think there is often an environment of jokes and unnecessary comedy [among students]  in a way that is not necessarily truthful to what Black history is.”

Kaleb Johnson ‘25 said that in his experiences, Black history and literature has been taught well throughout the year, and has helped him and others learn about Black history and experiences. Yet he believes that while it has done well on the education front, it has struggled in terms of educating students about current issues and about keeping students informed about present day issues discussed in the Black community today. 

“Greenhills does a pretty adequate job of teaching certain historical events before and after Black History Month,” said Johnson. “In terms of raising awareness and discussing a lot of issues regarding the Black community, that’s more debatable. By [creating a separate month for Black history], sometimes we can get the effect where it feels like we only have to care for this month, but sometimes during the month we really do learn more about Black history that we wouldn’t have known before.” 

Other students, like Makayla Jones ‘23 seem to view Black History Month as necessary, believing that it accounts for a lack of focus seen throughout the year and helps to ensure that Black issues get recognized to some extent.

“It depends on the classes you take, but as a school overall, we don’t do enough to teach Black history,” said Jones. “I do think that it’s also important to recognize [Black History Month] for the month, because if we don’t then it might not get recognized at all, and because it’s important to bring attention to certain issues at a certain time. Sure, [without it] it might get recognized some but not enough.”

Janelle Sterling, co-sponsor of the Black Students Affinity Group, believes that Greenhills does a great job of caring about Black issues during the month, but seems to struggle to keep that energy throughout the year. 

“It doesn’t feel like it has to be this way, but it seems like it’s a little bit concentrated for 28 days, and then we kind of just move on,” said Sterling. “But I think if we can embed activities or spread learning out throughout the year, then it doesn’t have to be that way.”