Episcopal School of Dallas students have been honoring Black History Month all February with speeches by the Black Student Union, performances by the Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble, and an exhibit at the Lower School library.
To close out the celebrations, last Friday senior McKenna Pressley and junior Kayla Andrews gave impassioned speeches to the campus about why Black History Month is important to them.
“Black History Month validates my lineage, my beauty, my culture,” Andrews said. “And perhaps, in the future, Black History Month will not be necessary, perhaps there won’t be laws that have to enforce teaching Black kids about their non-oppressive history, but until then celebrate my history because it’s beautiful, and it’s your history too.”
You can read their talks on the jump.
Kayla Andrews, junior
“Black History Month is easily my favorite month of the year because for up to 29 days, I am not the only person who considers my race every day. It’s not about wanting others to feel like I do because I don’t really think it’s possible for anyone to imagine my experiences, just like I can’t imagine yours. It’s really about everybody being aware of their own experience and how they can use their privilege to build up an oppressed community. Naturally, Black History Month is about Black people and their contributions to society, but that doesn’t mean that all other histories are irrelevant. In fact, it’s a celebration of American history. And I mean American history literally not as in the course ‘American History.’ All people who live in America should have their history represented. We give a much better effort at discussing more backgrounds in American history, but Black History Month exists to go beyond slavery and Civil Rights.
During Black History Month, my passion is justified. I can be unapologetically Black and be celebrated for it during February, and that’s a gift. This month was set aside so that my history was not limited to slavery and MLK, “the hero of all Black people.” This month was set aside so that I can justifiably tell you of Amina, Queen of Nigeria, Yaa Asantewa, Queen of Ghana, and the great warrior king Shaka Zulu – and many other African kings and queens that make up my pedigree and who go unmentioned in our history textbooks. This month was set aside for education of a culture, and such an education will make us well-rounded and “woke” world citizens.
This past month, I have felt the power of every African Queen, every stolen slave, every battered activist, and the First Lady herself within me.
This past month, I have felt the power of every African Queen, every stolen slave, every battered activist, and the First Lady herself within me. And that’s because of representation. Here’s an example of representation to help you get the idea:
Hypothetically, there is a little girl who wants to be a model, but she’s short and a ginger. Typically, models aren’t short, and I don’t know of many that are naturally gingers. But let’s say, that little girl is watching New York Fashion week and sees a short, ginger woman walking for Giorgio Armani. That little girl now knows that it’s possible for her to become a model because she has seen someone that looks like her do it.
Paying attention to Black history offers the same feeling for Black people of all ages. Showing young black girls and boys that success and happiness are possible, that their lives and their history matter is important because that might be the only encouragement they receive. Representation affects me even at 17 years old. When I see Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis and other actors and actresses on TV, it becomes clear that I can cross those barriers that lay before me (gender, race, etc.) no matter how many times someone tells me I can’t. Because those actresses are proof; they are the motivation and driving force within me. And my goal in life is to reach a level of success at which I can be a figure to young black girls who don’t know if they can do it, showing them that they can.
So ultimately, I wanted to tell you that I know Black History month is still necessary today in 2016 because I get such a great sensation living in it. If it wasn’t necessary, I would feel this way every day. Black History Month validates my lineage, my beauty, my culture. And perhaps, in the future, Black History Month will not be necessary, perhaps there won’t be laws that have to enforce teaching Black kids about their non-oppressive history, but until then celebrate my history because it’s beautiful, and it’s your history too.”
McKenna Pressley, senior
“So, what does Black History Month mean to me? Some people believe that Black History Month is just another month out of the year and deserves no attention whatsoever, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Please, let me tell you why I think it’s not just any other month.
Has anyone ever felt passionately about something or someone? I have. For example, right off the top of my head I can name a couple of people. 1) Beyoncé — so much so, in fact, that if she strutted [in] right now I would cry, like balling crying, then I think I would just drop dead. 2) I love me. Not in a conceited way; I’m talking about me as an entity, as a human. A huge part about loving who I am as a human is loving my culture. I’m bi-racial. Black and White.
And for a long time, I never noticed a difference in my skin color or upbringing compared to others. But when I did realize it, it’s all I could think about for a while. I didn’t love me. I focused so much on how different I was and in some cases was led to believe that my existence was worth less than the average white student.
Black History Month, to me, is a reminder.
A reminder not only of the history of African Americans, but also what we continue to go through today. Some people may find the conversation about Black History Month tedious and unnecessary because it does not pertain to them, but they are wrong. It pertains to everyone. It pertains to the treatment of human beings no matter the color of your skin.
Some people may find the conversation about Black History Month tedious and unnecessary because it does not pertain to them, but they are wrong. It pertains to everyone. It pertains to the treatment of human beings no matter the color of your skin.
Black History Month is the one month out of the year where I am reminded of black excellence and perseverance that is acknowledged and praised.
Black History Month is a reminder to me about my African Americans roots and the people who have paved the way for kids, like me. There would be no Maya Angelou without the innovation and perseverance of Phillis Wheatley. Nor would there be a Viola Davis without Hattie McDaniel. Not even a Beyoncé without Francis Johnson, the first African American to publish composition. There would be no Oprah without Nat King Cole. No Tiger Woods without the achievements of Pete Brown, the first African American golfer to win a PGA Tour event. Cam Newton? Not without Willie Thrower, the first African American NFL quarterback. Lastly, I would not be pursuing my dreams and attending the United States Military Academy next year without the bravery and perseverance of Henry Ossian Flipper, who was born as a slave and died a college graduate and the 2nd lieutenant of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.
African Americans are where we are now because of our struggle, our passion, and our belief that we are so much more than the labels bestowed upon us. During Black History Month, I am reminded of how excellent I am; how wonderful my people are. During this month, I don’t just think about where we came from, I look at where we are going next.”