OHS Celebrates Black History Month with Student Voice Presentation

Black History Month is a yearly celebration of the achievements by African Americans and a time to recognize their role in American History. The event grew out of “Negro History Week” started by historian Carter G. Woodson and other significant African Americans. Since the 1970s, every U.S. president has dedicated the month of February as Black History Month.

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history,” Carter G. Woodson said.

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. Woodson and minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization devoted to researching and encouraging the achievements by Black Americans.

I think this celebration is important, especially to our school, because of the privilege many students have here.”

— Ezra McGuire

Today, this organization is known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event inspired schools and communities to celebrate different cultures.

Decades later, mayors of cities across the county began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. Due to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of Black History, Negro History Week had grown into Black History Month.

Orono High School has been taking steps to increase awareness about Black History. This was the second year that Student Voice celebrated Black History Month. The hour-long presentation was filled with music, personal stories from students and included a special guest, Minnesota poet and activist, Joe Davis.

“We’ve been called to this place, this time and this season. You may not yet know the rhyme or reason. You may not feel, think, or believe in the same things I believe in. But we have been asked to show up,” encouraging students to pay attention and hear the stories of other Orono students Davis said.

The goal of the Student Voice Club is to improve classrooms by getting students of every color more familiar with Black History. They want to make it a normal thing to celebrate different cultures and share about communities that students at Orono High School might be unfamiliar with.

“I think this celebration is important, especially to our school, because of the privilege many students have here,” senior Ezra McGuire said.

According to U.S. News & World Report, 10 percent of the student body at Orono High School are students of color.

“We were looking for ways to elevate the opportunity of including diverse voices. The one who tells the story defines the culture, and if we don’t have all the people there, sharing their experience, then we have a pretty limited viewpoint, a limited narrative about what it’s like to be a student at Orono,” a Co-Advisor of Student Voice Erin Head said.

Based on last year’s attendance, organizers knew that OHS students were interested in learning more about Black History.

“I loved listening to all the student perspectives. It’s interesting when you can hear other perspectives, stand in their shoes, and hear about things through their eyes,” said senior Jillian Cook while reflecting on the event.

When coming to Orono, everything felt foreign to me. The questions I got asked made me feel so dumb, so angered, and so misunderstood. But, I knew I was going to make a change and I hope everyone’s ready for that.”

— Kamara Flemming

Another way Orono has been trying to increase awareness for Black History is through its curriculum.

“We really want to work on diversifying our curriculum. It is really powerful to hear from students of color talk about what it means to them to be in a history class at Orono and the elements they felt were missing,” Interim Associate Principal Jeffrey Aman said.

Students in all grades are getting involved at Orono High School.

“When coming to Orono, everything felt foreign to me. The questions I got asked made me feel so dumb, so angered, and so misunderstood. But, I knew I was going to make a change and I hope everyone’s ready for that,” sophomore and Student Voice member Kamara Flemming said.

Here is the full video of the event for those who were unable to attend.