Earlier this month, we wrote about a few of the innovative and exciting ways that AUSD schools celebrated Black History Month in February. There were too many wonderful projects to include in just one article, so this week we are spotlighting more!
Maya Lin School
Black Excellence Projects in SDC K-2 and 2nd/3rd Grade Classes
Maya Lin classes focused on Black artists during the month of February, with each room concentrating on notable Black artists, activists, writers, and scientists. Ms. Aiyana Beck’s K-2 Special Day Class, for instance, learned about Bob Marley and developed a performance of his famous “Three Little Birds.” The students also studied Constance Moore - a Maya Lin art teacher who has illustrated two picture books (“Brown: The Many Shades of Love” · and “Black: The Many Wonders of My World”). Drawing on Ms. Moore’s use of color shades, Ms. Beck’s students created collages about Mob Marley.
Students in Ms. Assia Day’s second grade class researched and wrote about the Children’s March of 1963 and the Freedom Riders. Drawing on the work of Faith Ringold, an American painter best known for her mixed media sculptures and narrative quilts, the students then created paper quilt backgrounds for their reports. “I like how black and white people worked together to stop segregation,” second grader Cayley commented.
Other artists studied by Maya Lin classes included William Johnson, Deborah Robertson, Besie Smith, Duke Ellington, Amanda Gorman, William C. Johnson, and Romare Bearden.
4th Grade Classes Host Bryant Terry
Soon, 4th-graders at Maya Lin can add cookbook authors and artists to their resumes.
This February, the 4th-grade classes at Maya Lin welcomed Bryant Terry, an author, chef, and artist, to speak to them as a part of the school's 2nd annual Black Excellence study. Terry talked to students about many things, including his creative process, how his community and Blackness shape his work, and art and culture's power to change people's worldviews.
Mary Otieku and Jacnet McNamee, 4th grade teachers, first sat down to brainstorm inspiring artists for students to focus their research on. Otieku thought Terry and his work would be an excellent fit for their project.
"I really wanted to do someone local, still alive, and who was doing activist work with their art. I thought about the idea of food as art and Black chefs in the Bay Area," said Otieku. "Bryant Terry is someone in my family whom we admire, follow, and have learned about. He is so much more than a James Beard award-winning Chef."
Otieku contacted Terry at MoAd, the Museum of the African Diaspora, telling him about the Black Excellence study and how their classes would celebrate him. She asked him if he was open to speaking to Maya Lin 4th-graders; it was an immediate yes for Terry, also noting that Maya Lin is one of his favorite artists.
Inspired by the opportunity to listen to Terry, Otieku and McNamee decided that the classes could create a cookbook inspired by Terry's most recent work, "Black Food."
"'Black Food' is a story of food through the experience of Black people," said Otieku. "He was thoughtful with his table of contents, based on stories that were written along with the recipes and a piece of art. We decided we would also do a recipe book that included stories, connections, and some pieces of art to complement the recipe."
On the day of the visit, students were eager to listen to Terry speak and asked so many thoughtful questions, like:
"What is your favorite food?" He said black-eyed peas.
"What are you most proud of?" He easily answered, "being a dad and a good husband."
Sharing space with Terry left an impression on the students. "It inspired some of them to write their own recipes and talk about their cultural connections and family connections," said Otieku, "The students were exposed to someone who is truly changing the world around him through his food choice (he is vegan), who he supports, and his love of family and culture."
Wood Middle School
Students and staff at Wood participated in several activities celebrating Black history and culture.
The school leadership team shared Black History Month facts and acknowledged Black historical figures in their daily announcements. In collaboration with this work, Connie Luong, a social science teacher and student leadership advisor, created a Google presentation featuring the information students shared and then posted it to the Wood website.
Classes participated in the 2nd Annual Black History Month Door Decorating Contest, judged by Shamar Edwards, Senior Director of Equity. There was a three-way tie for first place between Mr. Nguyen's Japanese Culture class, Ms. Shepard's Foraging Art class, and Mr. Ponsaran's Advanced Art class. Winners celebrated with a party hosted by Principal Kai Dyer.
The Black Student Union and Shanti Croom, the BSU advisor and AUSD’s Equity and Family Coordinator, hosted the "Black History Tabling Lunch Celebration" on February 16. At the event, participants could write or draw on a banner in response to two prompts:
Write a Black History Month fact. If you need help, please read a fact from the resource table to the right.
Draw or write a positive image or word that comes to your mind when you think of African-Americans.
The BSU included a resource table that students and staff could visit to learn more about Black history and curated a musical playlist that featured music from Black artists across genres and time. Those who participated received a treat for their contributions.
"The purpose of all of the events was to acknowledge, educate, and embrace the extraordinary ways throughout all periods of time that the Black culture influences and contributes to society," said Shanti Croom, Equity and Family Coordinator.
Students From AUSD Middle Schools Attend “Our History: The Black History Musical Experience” in San Francisco
Middle school students from Wood, Lincoln, Bay Farm, and Encinal went to the Herbst Theater in San Francisco for a performance of "Our History: The Black History Musical Experience." The musical was created by School Yard Rap, a Black-owned production company, to educate people of all ages about Black history. Students and staff who attended “had a great time!” says Wood Principal Kai Dwyer.
Love Elementary School
Love students researched scientists and innovators, such as Dr. Gladys West, whose work laid the foundation for the invention of the GPS, and Dr. James McLurkin, a world-renowned robotics engineer whose research has shaped the field of swarm robotics. They ended the month with an oratorical performance with four classes. We’d like to thank Principal Tina Lagdamen for creating a video that showcases the students' excellent work!
Office of Equity
In February, AUSD’s Office of Equity shared "I Am My Ancestor's Wildest Dream," a video they had created with support from Shaun Daniels of Castaway Creative and the Alameda Education Foundation. Several weeks later, the Alameda Post profiled Shanti Croom, the creator, and shared the video's creation process. We encourage you to read the article and watch the video if you haven't already.