Black History Month program held in gymnasium
■ Anaya Crouch & Dennis Fletcher / Contributed
On Friday, Feb. 8, the gymnasium at San Jacinto High School was filled to the rafters with about 350 enthusiastic students, parents, teachers and administrators who attended their second annual Black History Month program.
The highly charged event was organized by a coalition of the school’s Black Student Union (BSU) and the San Jacinto African American Advisory Council (SJAAAC), and was supported by members of the San Jacinto Unified School District, the Monte Vista Middle School BSU, North Mountain Middle School BSU, the San Jacinto High School administrative team and Big Daddy’s BBQ.
The program stated, “The San Jacinto High School BSU is a source for students to gain knowledge of black history and current events. BSU’s aim is to increase the unity within the school community through cultural awareness and cultural inclusion. We will provide college preparatory activities and programs that will help students gain knowledge. We plan to give back to the less fortunate and help our community through community service projects. Our BSU is here to mark our presence and put an end to negative stereotypes.”
The evening opened with a dinner of barbecue, collard greens and mac and cheese provided by Big Daddy’s BBQ located at 1020 North State Street in San Jacinto.
Anaya Crouch, senior and President of the BSU at San Jacinto High School, and student board member of the San Jacinto Unified School District, welcomed the crowd to the event. She announced, “This is our second annual Black History Month celebration. As the President of our BSU club at San Jacinto High School, I worked with our vice-president Ceniya Gholar and others to help plan the dancing, set up artwork, contact caterers, and more. Our BSU club coordinators were also a huge help in establishing the important needs to get the show to run cohesively. Our Black History Month celebration creates an environment that allows families of all backgrounds and ethnicities to enjoy the company of one another, while giving tribute to the influential figures of our past who have begun to pave the road for change.”
The BSU President continued by saying, “Families from all around the district came to attend the Celebration. It was amazing to see so many people coming to enjoy all the hard work that our BSU put into the event. My favorite part was being able to introduce myself to so many young, new faces from the middle and elementary schools. My wonderful team of BSU students did a great job choreographing the hip hop dance, the boy’s step, and the African dance.”
Crouch is also the secretary of her school’s “Adulting 101” club, where they learn the importance of filing taxes and handling money as tools to help students get a handle on the real world.
“The community played a huge role in curating the event with the BSU. We are planning on having a ‘Day of Service’ where we will come together to decide on how we will collectively give back to our community. Looking forward, our BSU will continue to grow and work to spread cultural awareness and understanding for ourselves and to our peers,” said Crouch.
Courtney Hall, Principal at San Jacinto High School, said “The BSU event honoring our students and famous black Americans is a proud event for SJHS. I have a tremendous amount of pride and awe at the talent, hard work, and pride that our students put into such a joy-filled event that celebrates the rich history and culture of our country.”
Dr. Rose Henderson, Vice Principal at SJHS, noted, “Tonight is all about the rich cultural history our students bring to the table every day, working countless hours to make this night possible. We all share in the collective responsibility to push through our differences, encourage each other to be better, care for one another and inspire the best in each and every student. SJHS BSU is about honoring the diversity within the African American culture to provide all of our students a place they feel safe, supported, and valued for who they are.”
The keynote speaker was Dr. KiMi Wilson, a former public school teacher who is passionate about eliminating educational inequities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), specifically for African American students who have been marginalized as it relates to STEM majors, careers and participation. Dr. Wilson joined the Cal State LA Charter College of Education in 2016 in the Division of Curriculum and Instruction.
Dr. Wilson’s research has focused on mathematics and science identity development for African American students as it relates to STEM education and participation. His published works focus on identity development of African American males pursuing STEM in higher education, and teacher identity development in mathematics. Dr. Wilson plans to expand his research to look at African American students’ mathematics and science learning in the elementary grades.
He spoke about being young, gifted and black. He told the students, “We need to think about how we are moving our culture forward.” He also told the students to ask themselves what are they doing to empower themselves and make their presence known. Some of the ways he suggested are to understand the nature of power, to know how to be an active listener, and to learn to be a disruptor of society to move it in the right direction. He said, “The work we’re doing here at this school with administrators, teachers, parents and students will continue to raise all to be the best that we can possibly be.”
Sheila Blythe, SJUSD Parent Center Liaison and one of the event’s organizers, said, “Watching our students highlight and celebrate African American history, art and culture in a way that has never been done before in the San Jacinto Valley was truly a proud moment for me and our community. I am honored to have been a part of such an awesome and uplifting program! Looking forward to next year.”
Destin Taylor, BSU board member, is relatively new to the school. He said the BSU is planning more events for the students and their group is growing, having tripled in size over last year. About one fifth of all black students at SJHS belong to the BSU.
Joel Lopez, newly elected San Jacinto City Council Member, was highly impressed with the proceedings by saying, “This event and the work being done by the Black Students Union here at San Jacinto High School shows the very best of what students can produce. These students, dedicated to informing and helping others and ending stereotypes, are setting an example for all of us in our city. I look forward to meeting with the BSU and seeing more activities coming from this very positive student organization.”
A fashion show, organized by BSU advisor Antoinette Miles and Parent Center Liaison Sheila Blythe, showed off the stylish trends of students from multiple schools throughout the San Jacinto Unified School District.
Other student performances included a series of dance performances that were organized and choreographed by the students of the SJHS BSU.
Award certificates were presented to students from elementary and middle schools who had shown leadership qualities. Assistant Principal Rose Henderson facilitated this in an effort to congratulate and recognize future leaders.
Jasmin Rubio, recently re-elected member of the San Jacinto Unified School Board, was with other school board dignitaries who attended, including Superintendent Diane Perez, Professor Willie Hamilton, Debora Rex, Assistant Superintendent Sherry Smith, plus district office staff Gale Hill and Dawn Lawrence.
Rubio said, “It was an honor for me to be in this event, and to see the great attendance and participation from the students, parents and community leaders.” She continued, “Thanks go to the team that made possible a Black History Month event that recognizes the heritage, accomplishments, culture and contributions of African Americans in the United States. It’s another achievement for SJUSD— full of support, joy, and unity.”
The Riverside Sheriff Department was represented by Capt. Leonard Purvis, a graduate of the FBI National Academy, who said, “I’m very proud to be a part of this high school and what the Black Student Union is doing here. The City of San Jacinto contracts with the County of Riverside for police protection using Riverside Sheriff Department personnel who are under my command.” He concluded, “ We fully support these activities of the BSU at SJHS.”
If this event was any indication of the kind of upbeat, inspiring event that the BSU and their advisors are capable of mounting, students at San Jacinto High School have lots to look forward to in the school year that lies ahead.