Behind the scenes of ETHS’ Black History Month celebration

Sophia Weglarz, Executive Editor

Beyond the vibrantly-colored doors with photos and illustrations of Black history heroes and the countless students and staff donning bright and brilliant hues to rep their culture, the 29-day celebration that is Black History Month at ETHS is more than just a month of empowerment.
“Black history is American history. It’s part of the history of this country,” Assistant Superintendent and Principal Marcus Campbell said. “I’m always shocked and amazed at the Black history that I learned on the South Side and at a Black school with Black kids and Black teachers that in some districts and other schools, they don’t know.”
While many of the activities are a celebration of what it means to be Black, several are more focused on learning and understanding.
Staff members involved in planning like Extracurricular Activities Coordinator Denise Clarke wanted the activities to be accessible to all students, with activities happening nearly every day.
“It’s important for ETHS to provide a variety of different activities because we have a variety of different cultures,” Clarke said. “Black looks so different, and we have so many different diasporas here: Carribean, Afro-Latinos, biracial students who all want to be included in something and in a month that celebrates our Blackness.”
Countless hours of planning goes into the activities meant to affirm Black history and culture. From the hip-hop battles in the cafeterias to a pop-up shop that will be held in the Main Lobby today, where students will learn entrepreneurial experience for small businesses to showcase and sell merchandise for the ETHS community, Black History Month festivities were the product of hours of student and staff collaboration.
Several students also underscored the benefit to having an institution like ETHS provide a wide range of activities to celebrate Black History Month.
“It’s important for us as a school to acknowledge the past and what has happened in our history so we can move forward into the future,” sophomore Jett Watson said.
While Black History month is just a short 29-days, several teachers are working to incorporate Black history and empowerment into their respective curriculums.
“[James Baldwin said that] ‘if we tell Black people the truth about their history, then we are also telling white people the truth about their history,’ and so a lot of times we are fed these lies about how great these white people were and how insignificant these other people are. If we teach history as it happens and show how everyone contributed, that evens the playing field, and also it can work to end white supremacy because white folks won’t think they are the be all end all to everything and that they have done everything. They haven’t,” African American Studies and Humanities teacher Ganae McAlpin said. “Instead of Black students thinking, ‘Oh these are things for white people,’ if we teach these students, no, these are things for Black people, and let me show you that in history, so people can see themselves more and have bigger dreams because if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
In addition to that sentiment, many students have expressed interest in seeing Black history incorporated into their curriculum.
“Teachers should [incorporate Black history more into their curriculums], especially during Black History Month, but all throughout the year too,” senior Gabby Horton said. “I feel like within any school system, [there is a lack of teaching about Black history,] not even just ETHS. [The importance of expanding that narrative] is to let people know that they’re more than just ancestors of slaves, but I do feel like the Civil Rights Movement is something important to learn about too. There’s so much more to know that just slavery and the civil rights movement.”