Black History Month allows all to reflect, seek improvement

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Caroline Wilburn

As it hangs in the science hallway, the Periodic Table of Black History displays the name of famous African Americans, past and present. February is Black History Month. “Specifically to our Black students, you are loved,” Burdett said. “You are cherished. You make us better. You make us the greatest high school in the world. We are in the greatest school district in the world because we want to honor every single student every single day. We want them to feel like they are a part of a family.”

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This article was updated on Feb. 25 to provide new information on the date and format changes for the assembly. 

This month, as students walk the halls, quotes and pictures remind them of Black history makers that came before them. 

February’s Black History Month provides a chance for students and staff to reflect on famous Black Americans of the past. The school planned to present a virtual Black History program Feb. 26 during eighth period, but due to weather-related complications on the preparation side, administrators had to move the date.  So, March 5, teachers will show a video made by students in collaboration with Rock Hill High School celebrating Black History. 

“The things that are going on in the world, they can show themselves as prejudice,” assistant principal David Moliere said. “Hate. Racism. Sexism. All kinds of different problems. All of it goes away with education. It’s education that’s going to change it.”

Moliere said he remembers the first time he realized the color of his skin mattered. 

“Probably before second grade,” Moliere said. “I had very, very vivid memories of it. I remember being treated differently by the teachers – not being treated badly, just not being treated the same.” 

Looking back, Moliere said he wishes that he would have let his parents know about the things that were going on and the things that he observed. 

“I think they would have deposited in me a strength,” Moliere said. “I think they would have let me know my thoughts were normal, my concerns were normal, and it was okay to feel that way.” 

Senior Emanuella Iwuji said being Black does not give an option to be comfortable. It requires constant effort not just to fight for a place in society but to live in a way that disproves the stereotypes.

“Being Black has impacted my journey,” Iwuji said. “My experiences as an African American youth have taught me the importance of being an active member of society. There is a pressure not just to succeed but to represent the entire community. ”

Moliere notes that most people of color he knows had a period of not liking their hair or the color of their skin. 

“Watching movies, watching Luke Skywalker, and looking in the mirror and saying ‘I can never be Luke’,” Moliere said. “It would have been different if I would have spoken to my dad, he would have said ‘you can be Luke, actually you are Luke.’”

Moliere said the district is not hiring people for a quota or for skin color, but hiring people who love and care about kids. 

“I’m not in this seat because I’m a Black person,” Moliere said. “I don’t believe I was hired to be in this seat because I’m a Black person. I believe I was hired because somebody told somebody that I could make a difference.”

As he sits at his desk, assistant principal David Moliere gets work done. This is Moliere’s first year as an Assistant Principal. “I’m not in this seat because I’m a Black person,” Moliere said. “I don’t believe I was hired to be in this seat because I’m a Black person. I believe I was hired because somebody told somebody that I could make a difference.”

Principal John Burdett said whether it be in hiring or curriculum, this moment in time is cause for celebration of Black history.

“It’s extremely important that we recognize that it’s not an isolated incident,” Burdett said “Throughout the other months, we’re looking at how we can better celebrate how we got here, through Black history.”

Iwuji said Black History Month is important because it serves as a time to acknowledge the existence of the past and work toward creating a better history. 

“It is important in shining light on the history of African Americans in a way that will both educate and motivate,” Iwuji said. “With the lack of representation of African American history, Black history month serves to let us know that we matter. Most important, it lets us redefine the stereotypes and understand our own history.”  

Burdett said society didn’t arrive where it is today just through white history.

“There are so many reasons why I’m sitting in this chair right now,” Burdett said, “As a Caucasian male, I’m here because of what Black people have done in the past.” 

As displayed on the Prosper ISD website, the demographic of students can be seen. Principal Dr. John Burkett said he is focusing on removing barriers for students so they can fulfill their potential. He said he is happy to have a staff that reflects the looks of the student body.  “We have incredible educators who happen to be Black, who happen to be white, who happen to be Hispanic,” Burdett said. “I love that we have dug and dug and dug until we found people who look like our students. They’re incredible educators and that makes me better. That helps me serve our Black students even better.”

Burdett said it’s critically important everyone understands where they came from and how they got here: with the involvement of a massive influence of Black history. He is focused on removing barriers for students so they can fulfill their potential. He said he is happy to have a staff that reflects the looks of the student body

“We have incredible educators who happen to be Black, who happen to be white, who happen to be Hispanic,” Burdett said. “I love that we have dug until we found people who look like our students. They’re incredible educators and that makes me better. That helps me serve our Black students even better.” 

Despite the efforts of Black History Month, Iwuji said she wants to challenge improvement in the high school’s community. 

“I want Prosper High School to grow in having a more unified student body,” Iwuji said. “I want it to be a place where students of color, in general, will feel comfortable and accepted.” 

Burdett said he wants students to know that when they leave the high school they are expanding the influence of the Eagle Nation. 

“Specifically to our Black students, you are loved,” Burdett said. “You are cherished. You make us better. You make us the greatest high school in the world. We are in the greatest school district in the world because we want to honor every single student every single day. We want them to feel like they are a part of a family.”

Much like Iwuji, Burdett said he also wants the school to come together with one unified purpose to uplift and love each other.

“The diversity makes us stronger,” Burdett said, “The different perspectives make us stronger. Where we come from in life makes us stronger because that helps us grow. I don’t know what racism is. I’ve never felt that, ever. But I can ask. I can empathize. I have a limited perspective on a lot of things, but that helps me grow.” 

To help students become more engaged in the topic of Black history, Burdett announced new classes that will be added to the schedule in the coming years. 

Specifically to our Black students, you are loved. You are cherished. You make us better. You make us the greatest high school in the world. We are in the greatest school district in the world because we want to honor every single student every single day. We want them to feel like they are a part of a family.”

— Dr. John Burdett

“We’re offering, starting next year, an African American studies class,” Burdett said. “We’ve got someone on staff who wants to teach the class, which is fantastic. Down the road, we’re going to have a Mexican American studies class.” 

As a part of the Prosper Career Independent Study class offered at the high school, Iwuji created a project to find out what her fellow students think about the school as it relates to students of color. She is currently holding talks with students called “Youth of Color Conversations” to compile their perspectives in a coherent response for the school to see what needs to be done. 

“I want to understand what they think the role of the school is in creating a safe haven for students of color,” Iwuji said. “Most importantly, how our school can move forward in accepting racial differences and the uniqueness of all.”

Iwuji said she started a Youth of Color report because of curiosity. When she joined Prosper High School as a junior, she said she struggled to find a club for Black students. 

“In my short time in the school, I realized everyone kind of did their own thing,” Iwuji said. “There’s not much of a unified action. I wanted to know how other students felt about our school and hopefully improve what needs improvement and keep what is already working.”

Burdett said Black history should be woven throughout the fabric of curriculum and that curriculum writers are doing that.

“Yes, we want to honor Black history in February, but what are we doing in August, September, October, that relates to the history we’re studying?” Burdett said. “Since we’ve been in America, there’s Black history. So there are always ways to weave it in.”

Burdett said he is blessed with not only “incredible” staff, but students. 

“The diversity we have in each, that makes us better,” Burdett said. “It makes me better as your principal. It makes me better as a human being.” 

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