BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard Public Schools is launching its annual Black History Month celebrations, and this year they could be more important than ever, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.
The month-long event follows a string of high-profile incidents in 2020 that wrenched the public eye back toward problems of race in America, triggering nationwide protests and the renewed prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Incidents like the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Philando Castille at the hands of police, and viral videos of white people accosting Blacks for innocuous acts like bird-watching, exposed a lingering national disregard for Black people, said William Gary, president of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex in Mims.
Exposure to the contributions of Black Americans — and the lasting impacts of racial injustice in their lives — is key to changing that, he said.
“This particular year, 2021, I think Black History Month will play a much more significant role, hopefully, in educating those people who still have some sense of justice and fairness in this country, that yes, Black lives do matter,” Gary said.
The activities — highlights include student presentations on prominent Black figures, art and music performances, book readings by Black American authors, and a Black History Gala on Feb. 25 in Cocoa Village, hosted by Cocoa High School — are intended to be more than rote fixtures in the school calendar, school district spokesman Russell Bruhn said.
“It’s a time to be very intentional with how we look at our history and how Black people ... have influenced what America is,” Bruhn said. “This year, like years in the past, is a time to make sure we look at, locally and nationally, the impact they’ve had on all of us.”
While Gary supported the school district’s efforts, he lamented the historical invisibility of Black history in the mainstream curriculum. One of the manifestations of that is a Black history “month.”
Black history should just be American history, he said.
“The history of African Americans and Blacks in the U.S. is a 365-day event, so we’re hoping that because we do identify this one particular month that focuses on that, that students ... will get an opportunity to know what the real history is,” Gary said.
Brevard Public Schools has recently doubled-down on its effort to improve education and treatment of minority students, starting with the creation of a new administrative position whose sole focus is equity and diversity in the district.
School officials are also in the process of beefing up the standard curriculum with additional lessons on local and national Black leaders, Bruhn said.
As valuable as this education is for students at large, said Delores McLaughlin, it’s especially important for Black students, who must confront in one form or another a society that is in many ways stacked against them.
McLaughlin is the executive director for the Alliance for Neighborhood Restoration in Cocoa, and one of several local Black leaders the school district is highlighting this month.
“Black children need to understand their history and why that may be, so they don’t internalize feeling inferior,” she said.
“We place emphasis on all of our achievements and the achievements of our ancestors, so our children can feel the significance of the contributions and feel a personal pride in where they come from,” McLaughlin said. “When you know your history, you can direct your future.”
Here are some highlights of Brevard Public Schools 2021 Black History Month:
Cocoa High School
- Media center and art project displays.
- Daily Black history facts and quotes to students.
- All classrooms will read and research Black history.
- Black History Gala, Feb. 25 at Riverfront Amphitheater in Cocoa Village: performance by student orchestra and chorus; monologue and recitation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech by community activist Leonard Ross.
Heritage High School
- Door-decorating, essay and art contests featuring Black history themes.
- Showcase of prominent Black leaders.
- Students will celebrate a “Unity Day.”
- Weekly student performances in Black history-related music, dance and poetry.
Southwest Middle School
- A virtual library featuring author Kwame Alexander, who discusses 32 books to read to celebrate and honor Black History Month.
2021 Virtual African American Read-In
- Virtual readings of children’s books and age-appropriate poetry by Black authors, posted to YouTube.
- Hosted by the Brevard Alliance of Black School Educators.
- Full list of readings and links on Brevard Public Schools’ Black History Month website at www.brevardschools.org/Page/17912.
Nemours Youth CARE Art Showcase
- Virtual showcase of student art on themes of racism and racial justice.
- Hosted by Nemours Student Health Services Youth Community Against Racism Events (CARE).
- More information and link to submit artwork on Nemours Facebook page.