Celebrating black history month inside and outside of the classroom

Ally Strehlke '22, Staff Writer

After being slammed last year for not doing enough for Black History Month, the Social Studies Department is working avidly to acknowledge black history this February.
According to social studies department chair Peter Palen, each teacher makes a commitment to do something to acknowledge black history.
¨Some teachers put up a bulletin board, while some teachers talk about complex issues of race,” Palen said. ¨But that doesn’t really tell the whole story because black history is in our curriculum the whole year.¨
Palen added that the school doesn’t mandate anything within the classroom for Black History Month.
“The social studies department puts it together,” Palen said. “Nowhere does it say we have to do anything, but the department feels as if it’s important that we do something to honor Black History Month.”
Palen said history teachers got slammed last year for not doing enough within the curriculum, but added that that might not be entirely true.
“If people would have looked into it more, they would have seen that we do a lot throughout the entire year,” Palen said. “It’s hard to grasp what teachers do in their own individual classrooms.”
SEEDS facilitator Christina Thomas `21 disagreed with Palen, noting that there is a clear absence of black history embedded into the curriculum.
“From my own experiences within some of the classes that I’ve had, we’ve had diversity units, but they feel so thrown in at random and not really fleshed out that it doesn’t feel genuine,” Thomas said. “I would like to see more authors, historians, and famous people of color incorporated better throughout the entire curriculum.”
Thomas also said that SEEDS is trying to work with other schools to bring attention to cultural diversity.
“We are trying to work with schools across metro Detroit like Cass Tech and North to do a bit of a school exchange to be able to understand each other better,” Thomas said. “We are also working with the younger children in Grosse Pointe and trying to educate them about different cultures and how to be more accepting of each other.”
History teacher MaShanta Ashmon said that she has plans within her classroom to celebrate Black History Month.
“I want students to celebrate some of the accomplishments of African-Americans in our history,” Ashmon said. “More important is the idea that students can share their knowledge of those accomplishments as well as culture.”
Ashmon added that she doesn’t think it’s just African-American culture that needs to be acknowledged, but American culture as a whole.
“Our culture as Americans of working together, wanting to do better and wanting to provide opportunities for each other– we want students to share that,” Ashmon said.
Ashmon believes that South needs to do more to celebrate black history, both inside and outside of the classroom.
“When you really care about something, you do it.” Ashmon said. “We have a responsibility to take initiative.”