February offered an opportunity for the PCD community to embrace this year's Black History Month theme, "Amplifying Black Voices and Culture."
"I think that it's important for us to highlight as much as possible some of the positive things that BIPOC people have done, especially women," says Johnson Thomas, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. "As a young historian myself, it's truly all about narratives. There are multiple narratives people should hear, not just a single one."
Thomas tackled three big projects in celebration of this theme: informational walls in the Upper and Middle Schools filled with posts about African American scientists, activists, authors, athletes, and artists; PCD's participation in the 2021 Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) Middle School Students of Color Conference; and weekly newsletters for the faculty and staff written by the alumni group Knights for Change.
The goal of the walls, says Thomas, "is to have students take a second passing through the hallways to read and absorb the information that they are seeing about Black people who have made a significant difference in our country."
Students and faculty walking by the walls this month will have had an opportunity to learn about notable women and men, including Dr. Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist and inventor of the Laserphaco Probe; Madame C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur and inventor of Madame C.J. Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower; Mark Dean, a computer scientist and co-inventor of the personal computer; and George Washington Carver, a botanist who revolutionized agriculture in the South.
Some PCD Middlers also had the opportunity to participate in the 2021 AISNE Middle School Students of Color Conference in early February. The conference included Black, African, Middle Eastern/North African, and White allies affinity spaces, as well as a range of workshops including "Activism in Athletics," "Race and Environmental Justice," "I Am Somebody," and "Representation and Identity Politics." The day wrapped up with keynote performer Mykee Fowlin and ended with a celebration dance and trivia night with DJ Will Gill. "The kids had an awesome time," Thomas says.
Thomas also organized and oversaw a weekly newsletter distributed to PCD staff and faculty throughout the month. Written anonymously by members of Knights for Change, a small group of PCD alumni, the newsletter included information about Black-owned businesses in Rhode Island, weekly profiles, a feature on Marquis and Candace Harper, P '13 '16, and recommendations for social media accounts that provide educational and up to date news content surrounding the Black and brown community.
As Black History Month draws to a close, Thomas issued an important reminder and a call to action to the community. "Black history is every day and not just something to celebrate and acknowledge in the shortest month of the year," he says. "Black history is American history."