The student-run news site of The Masters School

Tower

The student-run news site of The Masters School

Tower

The student-run news site of The Masters School

Tower

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Empowering excellence: How student-led initiatives redefined Black History Month at Masters

Empowering+excellence%3A+How+student-led+initiatives+redefined+Black+History+Month+at+Masters

With student-run organizations and affinity groups taking the lead, SCEEM (Students of Color Empowering Excellence through Mentorship) and ONYX expanded the Black History Month celebrations at Masters. They focused on celebrating black faculty members and students.

This year, Black History Month was different than it was in past years because, according to Juan Torres ‘25, co-president of SCEEM, they wanted to move away from standard informative presentations. 

One way SCEEM did something innovative was by honoring and recognizing staff of color with laudations from students of color to staff of color. The laudations occurred during Morning Meeting where a SCEEM member shared their thoughts about how a staff member has impacted their life and how important they are to the school. 

Torres said, “These laudations are long overdue and are a sliver of the sizable work that we must do as a community to honor and praise staff of color.” 

Torres gave a laudation to Shell Benjamin, Upper School dance teacher and director of Dance Company; Elijah Brooks gave a laudation to Brandon Sanders, Dara Akinwande ‘27 gave a laudation to Samuel Appiah, Department of Performing Arts faculty, and M’kaela Riley ‘26 gave a laudation to Victoria Jansen, dean of the class of 2025, language teacher, and Riley’s dorm parent; Ayanna Beckett ‘26 gave a laudation to Tokumbo Bodunde, Upper School English teacher, and Azariah Charles ‘26 gave a laudation to Abdoulaye Ngom, Upper School modern & classical language teacher. Month. Nyasha Chiundiza, Upper School History/Religion teacher, received a laudation from Chloe Mackay ‘26. A laudation from SCEEM leadership was given to Madame Lodz Pierre-Juanzo, Upper School French teacher and program advisor for SCEEM, for everything she has done for the club and school as a whole. The laudations happened consistently throughout the entire month during morning meetings.

Charles said, “The laudation I gave highlighted Mr. Ngom’s achievements and recognized his excellence which many times goes unnoticed.”

ONYX also held a special Black History Month party on Feb. 29 where all community members were invited to eat, dance, sing and celebrate Black culture together.

Apart from student organizations, the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE) also planned and hosted their own Black History Month programming. 

Selas Douglas, associate head of school for inclusive excellence said, “Black History Month was founded as a way to honor and acknowledge the contributions of Black Americans in our community and in the greater world.” He continued, “Our goal is to highlight experiences and perspectives of people who don’t always get highlighted.”

One voice that served the Center’s goal was Brandon Sanders, Upper School counselor and basketball coach, who has made important contributions to our community through his roles. Sanders has also shared his love and talent with music to the community. He and his jazz band played during Morning Meeting, where they not only showcased their talents but explained the link between jazz history and Black artists. 

The Center also wanted to highlight historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to educate the community about them. Esperanza Borrero, dean for inclusive excellence, said, “We discovered that not everybody knows what [HBCUs] are, their history or how many exist, so we’d like to highlight them more.” Atlantic Staff writer, Adam Harris, who visited the school on the day the School celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with in-school programming, talked about HBCUs and their importance, so Borerro’s presentation of HBCUs was a continuation of that conversation. 

 Borrero said, “There are over 100 HBCUs in our country and 70% of Black doctors in the United States attended HBCUs, yet many members of our school don’t know they exist.” 

Borrero said she wants to continue to educate the community about these universities during and beyond Black History Month. 

SCEEM is working closely with the CIE for the implementation of the Masters Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which will comprise the leadership from Latinos Unidos, ONYX, AAPI Club, the International Club, the Chinese Culture Club, and SCEEM. Some of their work intersects, so they are hoping to work together to create something big.

 Torres said, “We hope to establish a more robust and uniform program for students of color.”

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