Riverdale's 2019 Black History Month Was a Success
Throughout the month of February, Riverdale celebrated Black History Month with a multitude of events for the whole school. Since 1976, February has been dedicated to celebrating Black History in America, and Riverdale brings this celebration to the school community.
Throughout the month, Riverdale hosted a variety of events that focus on black culture and uplifting the black community. From workshops on self-care to a black career panel to debates about Black History Month, Riverdale created events for both students and faculty. Mr. Dwight Vidale, Director of Community Engagement at Riverdale, played a major role in planning Black History Month at Riverdale. Mr. Vidale discussed that workshops were created based on student and faculty interest, many of which have been centered around healing and self care. Mr. Vidale explained that before February the planning committee tried “to think about: what are some activities that will not only be helpful for the black community at Riverdale but also the larger Riverdale community?” He emphasized the importance of “trying to strike that balance between the two.”
Mr. Vidale also expressed that he wanted to create events that would “provide activities and workshops to allow people to experience, think about, interrogate, and explore the black experience not only here at Riverdale but on a larger scale in North America.” These workshops were definitely thoughtful learning experiences for all that attended.
With any event, increasing attendance is a crucial and sometimes difficult task. Mr. Vidale explained, “I'm a big believer that whoever’s in the room belongs in the room. At the same time, I think that anytime you’re talking about issues around equity, you want people who may be more privileged or more in the dominant group to also be present at those events.” Different perspectives push students to learn more and understand these topics on a deeper level, so it is important for the whole Riverdale community to attend.
Black History Month is meant to empower students and faculty of color at Riverdale. Mr. Vidale explained, “‘Black’ oftentimes is connected to crime, or really negative images, so to have 28 days where you can be unabashedly, unapologetically, authentically oneself and be celebrated for that, I think is really special.” Mr. Vidale expressed that throughout the month he focused on how “we continue to let our black students, our black faculty, and black people in our lives know that they’re seen, that they’re heard, that they’re valued, which is often a counter narrative to the larger, societal narrative that we get.”
Juniors Kofi Samuels and Enely Turbi Alvarez were both involved in Black History Month and attended various workshops. On February 1, Samuels and the Hilltop Diversity Coalition held a Black History Month Celebration and Movie Night, which was a great way to start off the month’s celebrations. They watched “Fresh Dressed” and heard from a panel of “urban black fashion icons [including] Dapper Dan and April Walker,” said Samuels. He expressed that this event was “the highlight of the month because of how well it went.” At the beginning of the month, Samuels expressed that he was “looking forward to seeing people who normally wouldn’t put themselves in these spaces and making an effort to actually come and support the work that the students and faculty and staff here are doing.”
Enely Turbi Alvarez, a member of Human Rights Now (HRN), also explored a variety of workshops throughout the month. According to Turbi Alvarez, HRN students “definitely helped set up events and are always willing to help and even lead workshops.” At the beginning of February, she said, “I’m really looking forward to being represented this month and having Riverdale students learn and educate themselves a little bit more. Although as a Latina, Hispanic Heritage Month was also very meaningful, the way Ms. Clarke and Mr. Vidale and the whole team planned out Black History Month, it always affirms black voices in the community. I am really looking forward to feeling seen and affirmed.” This idea of affirmation and self-love played a major role in many of the workshops this past month.
With a very successful Black History Month, our school community now looks to see how we can continue this celebration of black culture throughout the rest of the year.