Black History Month Celebration

Djasahn English and Beverly Fishman

This year’s Black History Month celebration at Lake Forest Academy was headed by both prideful leadership and enthusiastic participation from the students and members of the Black Student Union. Across the month of February multiple events, presentations, and activities were designed by student leadership and faculty advisors as avenues to celebrate Black culture and beauty.

To start off the month, on Wednesday, February 1st, during the first morning meeting presentation of Black History Month, the front stage was lined with members of the BSU standing adjacent to one another wearing all black. While on stage BSU president Mark Rios ‘24, shared a short statement to announce the beginning of Black History Month and present the BSU members. 

The conclusion of Rios’s speech said, “ Up here, with me, I have our Black student body: your friends and your peers. This is our time to uplift each other as a people, which we will do. However, with our uplifting will come malice. But we won’t let that bother us. This month is for celebrating my people. Our cultures, our beauty, and our excellence. And I love my culture, and today I’m feeling beautiful and awfully excellent.”

Rios detailed what his experience during the on stage black out was like, he said, “We all went up on stage, and I think it came out well. A lot of people came up in black clothes, and it was really encouraging to have that much support to start the month.”

The next weekend there was a cultural food event in Warner Dorm. Rios explained what that entailed and how the event allowed the BSU to celebrate its identity holistically. He said, “Mr. Mpofu made a fufu type dish, a kind of dough you use to pick up the mean and juices of the dish. This was alongside some beef and a chicken stew. That event was a lot of fun, and it helped us celebrate the different diasporas that fall under the ‘Black’ Student Union.”

During the First All School Meeting slot during Black History Month, on February 9th, 2023, the Black Student Union hosted a lively Family Feud reenactment, allowing for students and faculty to participate and compete against one another. The game-show style competition started with Gabi Stewart bringing back her iconic Steve Harvey costume. 

Gabi Stewart ‘24 in her Steve Harvey game show host impersonation (Photo by Terryn Wilson ’23)

BSU Head of Committee Yaseen Primus ‘24 explained, “We wanted to keep the Black History Month celebration as entertaining as possible, while using the ASM to teach and remind the LFA community about the importance and meaning behind the celebration.”

 The questions were all about Black history and culture with topics ranging from ‘the creators of our most essential inventions’ to ‘best HBCUs in America.’ Teachers and students alike were eager to be involved, and the atmosphere was energetic.

 Salajan English ‘24, BSU member, commented, “It was cool to see not just Black students but all students racing down the stage, happy and excited about our Black history. It felt like we were being celebrated.”

Following Family Feud, BSU member Nalani Hill ‘24 performed a personally choreographed dance to “I Will Survive ” by Gloria Gaynor. By her last move, the audience was clapping incredibly loud, and no one wanted her to exit the stage. The next performance was from Terryn Wilson, who sang Andra Day’s “We Will Rise Up.” The raw talent and beauty her singing exuded was unmatched. Cressey’s auditorium was lit up by flash lights, and she gave what should be a memorable performance to all.

Black Student Union leaders from left to right, Yaseen Primus ‘24, Mark Rios ‘24, Gabi Stewart ‘24, and Terryn Willson ‘24 (Photo by Mrs. Nassr)

Stewart stated, “It was a great opportunity to allow us as the Black Student Union on campus to showcase our Black Excellence in an interactive and entertaining way.” Throughout the All School Meeting, good energy and high participation was constant with people wanting more. The BSU delivered an unforgettable day for the LFA community and truly spotlighted Black excellence, history, and culture.

In retrospect, the BSU had an overall successful Black History Month, succeeding in providing positive attention to the beauty of the Black diaspora. English said, “There aren’t a lot of resources for affinity groups and clubs to really excel in providing them the representation they deserve during important times. I think with the resources that the BSU has, they’re doing a great job at making us feel comfortable during this time of celebration.”

In regards to the BSU’s plans moving forward and past Black History Month, Rios shared some goals for the rest of the year. He said, “We have planned a twist-out/salon in the dance room where we’ll play Black comfort movies. My guess is that it will be a lot of people’s favorite event of the year, and I know that it will probably be mine.”

When asked what about the BSU allowed them to have an impactful year, Primus said, “We have a really balanced group of leaders this year, so we have people who can tap into a lot of different communities or circles at this school. On top of that, our underclassmen have been a lot more passionate about the club than in years past.”

Black Student Union members after a successful All School Meeting

Finally, when asked how he would like to see the BSU progress or evolve in future years, Rios cautioned future leaders. He said, “the BSU should continue to focus mostly on allowing Black students to celebrate their culture amongst each other, and only when that’s been prioritized, begin allowing others to join in on that celebration.”