Conard's Involvement with Black History Month
By: Maddie Brennan
As we near the anniversary of George Floyd’s death along with the resurgence of Black Lives Matter Protests, it’s important to reflect on what the Conard community has done to make black students feel heard, welcomed, and valued.
During the month of February, Conard’s faculty devoted their time and effort to cultivating an environment in which black history is not only taught, but valued. We listened to morning announcements honoring specific black heroes, admired pieces of artwork which beautifully conveyed the experiences of African Americans throughout history, and watched a discussion on race at West Hartford Public Schools through google meet.
Considering that February was Black History Month, I asked a few teachers from the history department at Conard about what Black History Month means to them and how it was reflected in their teaching styles this February. History teachers at Conard recognize Black History Month as important because black history is often left out of curriculum. This is significant because the black experience is essential in our understanding of US History.
“If we ignore or we don’t appreciate the contributions of the black experience, then that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the issues we face today or the ones we’ll have to grapple with in the years to come”
-Mr. Bassi (teaches AP Seminar and US History through the African American Experience)
Mr. Pokorny, who teaches American Government and US History, shared that he feels his historic education lacked the black perspective.
“I am continually reminded of the gaps in my own historical education which unfortunately I feel was more or less ‘whitewashed’. I sincerely hope that this will NOT be the experience of my own students!”
-Mr. Pokorny (teaches US History and American Government)
Additionally, both teachers realize this Black History Month as different from ones we’ve celebrated in the past. Mr. Bassi notes that he’s recognized that the student body is seemingly more “energized” and interested in black history. Both teachers credit this change to the increased activism regarding police brutality and other racial injustices.
But, how do the students feel about this year’s Black History Month? Generally, students at Conard seem to be appreciative of the discussions of black history and the projects that Conard faculty has put work into.
Ella Tanis, a junior at Conard, participated as a panelist in the discussion of what black students’ experience has been like with West Hartford Public Schools. She praises the work Conard has done to celebrate Black History Month, specifically the schoolwide discussion.
“I think having West Hartford wanting to hear the voices of black students and not only for teachers, but for entire student bodies was a big step forward for bringing awareness in West Hartford”
-Ella Tanis (junior)
Likewise, Tolu Adetola, a senior at Conard, shares his commendation for the everyday discussions that classrooms at Conard had during February.
“The first time I received any view of math and science outside of equations and notes was this year, watching a presentation on African American computer scientists and engineers. As an African American who wants to become the like, seeing the contributions to the field from people like me was not only new information, but refreshing, and encouraging”
-Tolu Adetola (senior)
Students at Conard also appreciate the focus on Black History Month because some, such as Elaina Huber, a senior at Conard, think that their education of important black figures has been previously insufficient.
“We should learn about more than just MLK and Rosa Parks”
-Elaina Huber (senior)
Both students and teachers are content with the efforts that Conard and West Hartford Public Schools put into making this Black History Month, in its focus, reflective of the increased recognition of racial injustices’ gravity with Black Lives Matter and police brutality protests.