Black History Month assembly celebrates Black joy, excellence


Naomi Yaeger , Staff Writer

The Union led an assembly featuring Black students and faculty to celebrate the start of Black History Month this Tuesday. 

“Black culture is American culture,” co-president of The Union Allyson Wright (12) said. Wright and co-president Nia Huff (11) centered the assembly around Black culture to uplift the Black community at the school, Wright said. “Often, when we’re thinking of the Black community, it’s in regards to tragedy. We wanted to focus the assembly on Black joy and the appreciation of our culture to show how much the Black community has to offer.”

Last year, the school barely acknowledged Black History Month, only offering an assembly in March that featured dances without explaining how they were part of Black history, Wright said. “Horace Mann should have made it a priority to educate its students about the significance and impact of Black people and Black culture,” Wright wrote in an opinion article with Ashleigh Conner (12) (Volume 119, Issue 21). For this reason, hosting an assembly for Black History Month was one of The Union’s goals for this year, Wright said.

In October, Huff and Wright reached out to the assembly committee — English teacher Dr. Adam Casdin, manager of the Theater Department Jonathan Nye, Head of the Upper Division (UD) Dr. Jessica Levenstein, and UD Dean of Students Michael Dalo — to explain their idea. “We said that we wanted to create something that was student driven, with student performances,” The Union advisor Toni Miranda said.

These meetings turned the assembly into an achievable goal, Wright said. “Mr. Nye and Dr. Casdin helped us in terms of understanding what it takes to actually put an assembly together,” she said. For example, they suggested starting the assembly with a performance, a rendition of John Coltrane’s “Blues Train” by Nate Ogiste (10) and James Moore (9), Wright said. Finally, Huff and Wright sent the program to Dalo and Dr. Levenstein for approval.

The committee was on board with the idea and asked them to submit an official proposal of what they wanted to include in the assembly. To put this proposal together, Wright and Huff asked members of The Union in November what they wanted to perform or to help plan the assembly if they didn’t want to be on stage, Wright said. “We met four or five times as a group to get ideas together and to plan it out.”

Some students participated in multiple performances, such as Ramatou Kirimou (10). Kirimou was in the step performance, created and edited a video where Black students shared their thoughts on the month, and read the poem “Beautifully Black Me,” by Erianne Flores (9). Kirimou was inspired by videos she had seen in past assemblies when she suggested the idea for a video to be played at this assembly, she said.

By including the step performance, The Union was able to work some education into the assembly, Flores said. “It was a way to give a little bit of Black history while also keeping it light-hearted and fun,” she said.

The Union also held some joint meetings with the Black Excellence Affinity Group (BlEx) to allow members of both groups to get involved in the assembly, Wright said. This included BlEx faculty advisors Bri’ana Odom and Lisa Scott, who choreographed and performed in the step performance, as well as BlEx advisor Shy Parris, who read Langston Hughes’ poem “Theme for English B.” Huff and Wright also asked Administrative Assistant Ennis Smith if he would sing in the assembly after being impressed by his talent during last year’s Music Week assembly, Wright said.

Each of the groups performing, such as the step group, rehearsed together on their own time, Kirimou said. “Ms. Scott and Ms. Odom choreographed the step and they sent us videos before winter break so that we could have the hang of it,” she said. “After we got back, during I periods on Mondays and Thursdays we had rehearsal periods.”

For Flores, who gave a reflection on how the school’s community helped her connect with her Black heritage, the assembly gave her a chance to express herself, she said. “Usually, when I perform in an assembly, I read poems, so I wanted to switch it up and tell my story that way.”

While students rehearsed on their own, the group was unable to rehearse together before the performance, save for a quick sound check during B period the day of the assembly, Miranda said. “We didn’t have a big rehearsal, which made it a little stressful,” she said.

Despite this, the performance was a success, Huff said. “It just felt amazing to see all the work come to fruition, to see how much the community enjoyed it.”

Everyone in the performance supported each other, Miranda said. “I loved that when one student was performing, the other performers on the side were cheering them on,” she said. “It speaks to the spirit of celebration and joy in this community, how if students have a vision, they can see that vision through, see it come to fruition, and share it with the rest of the community.”


Beautifully Black Me

Written by Erianne Flores, recited by Ramotou Karimou


I looked at the water

and what I saw was beautiful 

I looked at the mirror 

and saw face that was wonderful 

carefully crafted

constructed piece by piece

with the DNA and stories of those who came before me 

they created

this beautifully black me

with locs that spiral 

that I can weave and braid into any crown I want for the day

my feet marked with lines that carry the weight my ancestors once beared

Dark eyes with dark tales

strong hands that fought

fought for who i can be now

i looked in the mirror

and saw something perfectly sound

but when i step outside

people stare

what is there to see

besides the glory that flows within me

but you see

not everyone sees

the battered feet that walked miles 

the lips that open doors and broke chains

hands that with simple strokes spoke so profoundly their books were labeled danger



despite what some people think

i am perfectly made

we are perfectly us

cuz when i looked into the water

I saw a strong family tree

I saw beautifully black me

The Union’s co-presidents, Nia Huff (11) and Allyson Wright (12).
James Moore (9) and Nate Ogiste (10) showcase “Blue Train” by John Coltrane on saxophone and drums. 
Ramatou Kirimou (10), Brooke Huff (9), Samantha Fullerton (9), and BlEx advisor Bri’Anna Odom perform a step dance routine. 
(Left to right) Amaris Christian (10) shares her poem “We Are Not a Painting”; Carys King (9) reflects on finding community at HM; Erianne Flores (9) speaks on her Afro-Latina identity.
(Left to right) Ramotou Karimou (10) recites “Beautifully Black me” by Erianne Flores (9); Ovie Ayuranouh (11) recites “I, too” by Langston Hughes; BlEx advisor Shy Parris recites “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes.
(Left to right) Hannah Hunter (10) sings “Fly Before You Fall” by Cynthia Erivo; Administrative Assistant Ennis Smith belts “One” by U2; Ashleigh Conner (12) closes the show with “I’m Here” from “The Color Purple.”