Thomas Jefferson

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Acknowledging Accomplishments

Posted 04/28/2023 by Farah Djama

Iftu Kassim (left) and Karima Adam (Right), two students part of BSA, celebrating Somali culture at TJ’s Multicultural Night. photo by Kyler Jackson  

TJ’s Black Student Alliance celebrates Black History Month through educational pathways. 

Last year, the Black Student Alliance (BSA), a student-led organization at TJ, held several events related to Black History Month, including topics about Black American Culture. This year, the organization is once again covering important matters regarding the Black American History. 

The origins of Black History Month can be traced to Chicago in the summer of 1915. A University of Chicago graduate, Carter G. Woodson, along with many others, traveled to Washington D.C. in order to go to an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Emancipation. This celebration included exhibits that celebrated the progress that had been made since the Emancipation Proclamation. Inspired by this event, Woodson and a few of his colleagues created the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). In February of 1926, Woodson had put in a press release form to announce “Negro History Week” in order to popularize the knowledge about Black American History. Woodson chose this week to take place in the month of February because of the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The shift from only dedicating a week to Black History to the entire month of February started in West Virginia at the beginning of the 1940s, and then spread to the city of Chicago. By the 1960’s, Black History was officially being celebrated throughout the entire month of February.

BSA was founded in 2009 by seniors Andrew Craig and Shanora Ali. Their main focal point at the time was to provide resources for college success, such as scholarships. Danny Showers, the CTE Partnership Coordinator sponsor at the time, had collaborated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in order to connect students with future educational opportunities. BSA had been planning for raising awareness during Black History Month and in 2010, they had daily announcements throughout February, sharing quotes from Civil Rights Activists and facts about Black History Month. 

TJ has continued to celebrate this crucial month in 2023 by having segments similar to the ones in 2010 on the Spartan Edition. Kyler Jackson, the current teacher sponsor of the BSA, explained that they celebrated the month, mostly on the Spartan Edition. “We planned to utilize humor while also including accurate facts.” The segments were dedicated to general information about Black History in America, such as trivia on the 1960s civil rights movement, guess who said the quote, and information about Black Historical figures acknowledging their contributions to art, technology, and the sciences. “The most important message we wanted to deliver with the segments is that there are so many Black individuals that have done so much to grow and evolve our world as a whole. These people have shaped our modern world to what it is today which is why they are so influential,” commented TJ junior Delina Abraham

However, the Spartan Edition wasn’t the only way these historical figures have been celebrated. Leadership Students had made informative colorful posters and placed them hallways all over the school.  There also had been posters made by students in Leadership, that were placed all around the school hallways detailing the accomplishments of Black Historical Figures. Black history is not just on display and shown in February, but black history is being represented at TJ all year. In the music hallway, many African American classical composers have been featured, such as Florence Price. Price was a classical composer, and recognized to be the first African American symphonic composer, and the first to also have her work be played by a major orchestra. Near the main office, there was a poster about Lewis Latimer. Latimer was an Inventor who helped Alexander Graham Bell with the patent of the telephone and was a major contributor to the success of the invention. Abraham recalled, “I was getting a lot of feedback on how people learned something new because of the segment.” Since students walk through the halls after every period, and the Spartan Edition plays every 4th period, there’s repeated exposure to this critical information. Jackson reflected, “I think there is tons [of misinformation] out there, but I think we’ve made small incremental steps in dispelling some of that.”