Several classes, book club recognizes Black History Month’s significance


Molly Brim

Several books written by Black authors are being highlighted during February in the Library. This year for Black History Month, various classes like Art Fundamentals and Black Literature are acknowledging the importance of Black History Month with class projects.

Molly Brim and Ammu Lanka

The story of Black History Month begins in the year of 1915, according to the Association for the study of African American Life and History, and is still an important topic talked about in classes today.

In the spring of 2018, Natalie Fallert, the K-12 Language Arts Coordinator, sent out an interest form to district language arts teachers to submit ideas for potential courses to add to the curriculum.

Whe Dawn Indelicato-Faw, language arts teacher, first received the opportunity to add to the curriculum, an idea that had been in the back of her mind made its way to the form.

“I had been thinking about a class centered around minority authors for a while, and when the email went out, I began looking around at other districts to see what kind of classes they offered and how they were offered, semester-long vs year-long classes. I wanted to propose a class that would give space for the authors that we might spend some time on in class but not always have the time to devote entirely to in a way I think students would enjoy. Over summer break [of 2018] I wrote out the rough draft of the curriculum units and literature ideas for the course for the curriculum proposal,” Indelicato-Faw said.

Indelicato-Faw said there was a variety of classes that were proposed ranging from a music class to a Shakespeare class, including the popular Black Literature class.

“I think it was in fall of 2019 when the course was approved by the Board. Once that happened, I began to collaborate with Mrs. Beasley to fine-tune the curriculum and the major pieces of literature and units,” Indelicato-Faw said.

Already the teacher for Multicultural Literature, Beasley said she was interested in the unique class.

“We don’t really offer anything like that and I thought it was cool that in some ways, the content of it reminds me of a university language arts class because it’s so tailored to specific content. If people are signing up to take that class, they’re probably interested and invested in the topic,” Beasley said. 

After officially being approved, the Black Literature course was offered as an option for registration in the 2020-2021 school year.

“The first year the class was even offered was the year of COVID-19. The first time I taught the class, we were virtual. Right now I’m on my fifth semester of having the class,” Beasley said.

As it was virtual at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the original blueprint of the class had to change. But Beasley used this shift to her advantage.

“I created the modules and all of the stuff on Canvas for that class so going into the school year in August, I had all the [material] that I made already. It was kind of cool because I created this online version of the class which I was able to adapt and use for that semester,” Beasley said.

Virtual learning wasn’t the most effective beginning of the course, since Beasley said being able to see the students face-to-face would’ve made it easier to connect with them. Luckily, she said most of the students were connected already.

“One of the things about that first semester of teaching the class was that most of those students that I had already knew each other, which was a huge plus because it would have been hard to build a relationship of trust via Zoom or via Canvas,” Beasley said.

I think seeing teachers of color would influence more students of color to become teachers. ”

— Sophia Beasley

With being a white teacher teaching a class about Black Literature, Beasley said she can’t empathize completely with how people of color feel, but tries to emphasize the fact that she hears them.

“[It’s] a question I get asked and even if I don’t get asked this, I bring it up anyway. Because I want to make sure that we’re all out in the open and I [want] to recognize that as a white person, I have not lived the Black experience. So while I can try to empathize with it, I can’t necessarily understand or know what it’s like to be a Black person living in the United States,” Beasley said.

This year, Beasley has been trying to set up different forms of giving more attention to Black History Month with other teachers including art teacher Emily Benner and librarian Nichole Ballard-Long.

“I want to help students organize events, projects,  performances that are meaningful to them. I want them to choose what and who to feature and what type of things they want to design,” Benner said.

On multiple AcLab days during Mod 2, Benner’s students have met and talked about what they want to do for Black History Month. All the projects they are wanting to do are all student-driven.

Some ideas include shoe culture, faces of NYC, performing at an assembly, bulletin boards of Black influential people and more.

“When the BHM committee kids plan the design, Art Fundamentals classes will paint/draw make them following the plan,” Benner said.

While Benner and her students will focus on the art aspect of Black History Month, Beasley and Ballard-Long have talked about having a book club for students and teachers where they will read books written by Black authors.

To start the Black History Month book club, Ballard-Long said they’re following Rockwood Summit’s lead.

“We got the idea [for the book club] from Rockwood Summit, who is doing a staff book club for Black History Month with The Davenports,” Ballard-Long said.

For the club, students will be reading The Davenports by Krystal Marquis while teachers will have an option to choose between this book or Black Cake: a novel by Charmaine Wilkerson.

Both the staff and student book clubs will meet once. Students will meet Mod 2 of Ac Lab on Feb. 23 while the staff book club will meet after school on Feb. 22.

“We hope that students and staff who read these titles have a chance to read a great book written by a Black author and featuring Black characters.  We hope to have a quality and lively discussion about the issues presented in these books–not just because it is Black History Month, but because they are also just excellent stories with some really timely and important issues within each,” Long said.

There will also be a play performance by a St. Louis-based theater group in Lafayette’s Theater during 5th hour for students and teachers to celebrate Black History Month.