In the spirit of Black History Month, Riverdale offered a variety of workshops and activities to celebrate and explore black history this February. The programs included a discussion about what it means to be Black and Trans with the organization Destination Tomorrow, a trip to see a screening of the film Black Panther, and a day-long visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., among others. Every opportunity sought to celebrate, empower, and explore the history of the black community at Riverdale and at large.
February’s exploration of black culture and history was offered to all students and allowed community members to learn in an atmosphere unlike the typical classroom experience.
Sophomore Cindy Rosario, a member of the student group “Human Rights, Now!”, said “Human Rights, Now! has been planning Black History Month for some time now, and we have multiple events lined up every week. It is very important for us to give the time and attention to these events because after all, black history is everyone's history.” Starting with the initial school-wide assembly, Riverdale tried to excite all students about the upcoming month to ensure maximum participation at all the different events. Human Rights, Now!, the Community Engagement Team, and students and faculty dedicated lots of time into planning all the different events and to discussing the month in general. The events balanced learning with fun through features like music, cupcakes, and giveaways.
When speaking with Sophomore Enely Alvarez, who is also a member of Human Rights, Now! about her favorite event of the month she said, “The Black History Month event I was the most happy about was getting the chance to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I think It’s important to learn about our history and empower ourselves by remembering that our ancestors survived and that we’re still here.”
Considering Riverdale had never put together a Black History Month quite like this before, it is important to recognize the work that has been put into the scheduling as well as the impact all these activities have had on the student body. As opposed to a few speakers, these activities formed their own curriculum of black history.
When speaking with faculty member Ms. Cam Clarke, who worked with the students of HRN, Ms. Phyllis Dugan, and other members of the faculty to create the Black History Month schedule, she said, “If you want to show the black students on this campus that they are a part of this community you have to be there to support and celebrate their history with them.” On top of that, she believes the main objectives of this month are to, “give different ways to highlight black culture and black history ... also to talk about the multiplicity of identities within blackness.”
The programs were intended to be educational for all students. Ms. Clarke also noted how it has been an amazing and stressful experience planning all the varying activities and now all the faculty just wants to see everyone involved, learning, and having fun.
After such an exciting month, hopefully those sort of activities will reappear next February with even more students participating and getting involved. This month’s activities seem to have brought together the student body through learning and new experiences as well as support for the the black community at Riverdale.