Celebrating Black History Month and the Arts at GSB

Celebrating Black History Month and the Arts at GSB

This February, Gill St. Bernard's School buzzed with activities celebrating Black History Month.

The 2024 theme, "African Americans and the Arts," resonated throughout the entire school community. "This year's theme is very close to my heart," shared Upper School Music Instructor Jack Williams III. "Black people in America have made life-changing contributions to the arts, and I'm proud to be able to honor them." 

GSB’s Black Student Union club (BSU) played a central role in the festivities. Upper School students and Mr. Williams hosted Instagram takeovers, offering glimpses into daily school life from the student perspective, while also using the platform to highlight Black history facts and inspiring artists. 

During assemblies, Maurice Boyd '26, Natasha Ellison '25, Oyin Opawuyi '26, and Reyna Facenda '27 delivered presentations on topics such as Art and Expression, Visual Arts, and African Americans in Fashion.  

“Presenting allowed me to share how my culture uses art to create change,” reflected Boyd. “Spreading this information enriches others' lives about the power of art.” 

The BSU's spirit of collaboration extended beyond the Upper School. They joined the February Families of Color meeting to share Black History Month activities, and Upper School BSU members partnered with their Middle School counterparts to create their Black History Month presentation. 

“Being able to talk to Middle School kids about Black History Month was extremely exciting,” said Cassidy Moore '25. “Celebrating Black achievements is important, and it was a great way to spread the message.” The Upper School also invited Middle Schoolers to a movie night featuring Space Jam with pizza and snacks for a fun, cross-divisional community-building activity. 

Judge Michael Wright, the first and only Black judge in the Morris/Sussex Vicinage, visited Gill on Monday, February 26 to deliver a rousing speech encouraging Upper School students to persevere in their dreams. David Pressley ‘25 expressed, “I was so impressed with Judge Wright's presentation because of how different it was. I pride myself on the effort I put into my classes and community, so I was pleased to meet Judge Wright, a role model who has found success with similar principles to me! Thank you, Judge Wright!” 

Middle Schoolers kicked off Black History Month on MLK Jr. Day with a service challenge and presentation followed by four related advisory lessons. Students were challenged to perform daily acts of service for 30 days, sharing their experiences to inspire others.  

Continuing the cross-divisional connections, Charlotte Brown ’27 presented to Charlotte Hogan’s fifth grade classes on her ancestor Robert Smalls and his contributions to the Union Army and American government as a five-term Congressman from South Carolina. Originally scheduled for February, the Middle School will celebrate their Black History Month recognition on March 4, including a presentation by Upper Schooler Maurice Boyd.  

In musical morning assemblies, first through eighth grade students experienced A Seat for Rosa, the tale of Rosa Parks and the events that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Through this exploration of the Civil Rights Era, students learned how individuals can work together to fight injustice and oppression. After the production, students engaged in thoughtful discussions on applying this lesson to their everyday lives.   

Kindergartners explored the artwork of self-taught artist Kimmy Cantrell. The kids worked with two Upper School students to create their own clay masks. The kindergarteners partnered with fourth graders and proudly displayed their creations in a Welcome Wednesday art exhibit.  

The Lower School also held a Black History Month town meeting. Students learned about the month's origins, heard a personal reflection from the Middle School and enjoyed presentations by third graders on prominent Black Americans. 

Engaging library displays featuring diverse authors and characters enriched the learning experience across all divisions. The Upper School Reading Buddies Club fostered connections by sharing books with Lower School students, featuring characters and authors of Color. 

SAGE Dining Services showcased delicious meals from the Black diaspora, transporting students on a culinary journey through cuisines from Nigeria, Uganda, New Orleans, Madagascar, and South Africa. 

Black History Month at GSB wasn't just about the past; it was a vibrant exploration of the ongoing impact of Black artists, leaders, and everyday heroes. Through these activities, the school community celebrated achievements, fostered connections, and ignited a passion for positive social change. 

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