Celebrating Black Joy in the Month of February

By Katya Agrawal

How can a community like Winsor honor Black history? The month of February, Black History Month, is devoted to this pursuit. February brings the remembrance of immense struggle; one often associates Blackness with egregious acts of brutality, such as slavery, Jim Crow, or modern manifestations of racism. And, while discussing these issues is important, according to Mr. Braxton, during this month, “we also need to celebrate Blackness.”

In service of this goal, SISTERS, the Upper School affinity group for African-American students, will be talking about an influential Black individual during each club meeting in February. They are also planning the Black History assembly and focusing on the theme of “Black Joy.”

According to the leaders of the club, Franchesca Vilmenay ’22 and Miracle Hodge ’22, “After such a turbulent few years, we felt it was necessary to highlight the joys and happiness that exist within the Black diaspora. Some students may believe that our SISTERS meetings and culture consist of trauma dumping or sharing our struggles as Black people. While we recognize the ways that our identity functions within society, we talk about more than just our race. Much of SISTERS itself is focused on joy, community, and camaraderie. SISTERS is one of the few spaces where our race is not a contributing factor to our personal perception and treatment of others. What brings us all together is the fact that we identify as Black but what unites us is the joy that exists within that community.”

In the assembly, Vilmenay and Hodge aim to share these insights with Winsor, show that they are “proud of [their] Blackness,” and augment Black voices. This year, the speaker for the assembly will be Jeneé Osterheldt. She currently works as a culture columnist for the Boston Globe and concentrates her writing on Black culture and art. While writing about Blackness in America, Osterheldt is able to highlight the ways in which people of color fight oppression not only through traditional art forms – such as dance, music, poetry, or visual media – but also through mundane, soulful interactions with others. Among other notable pieces of work, Osterheldt discusses dance as a form of self-representation, writes about Maya Angelou, and examines Black womanhood. 

In the end, Vilmenay and Hodge “hope that our assembly is able to depict how diverse the diaspora is because in many ways we are still viewed as a monolith. Even within our small SISTERS community, there are so many cultural differences, all of which are equally beautiful and deserving of respect and recognition. Additionally, we hope to shift others’ perceptions of our experiences from one that is overwhelmingly negative to one that is beautiful, joyous, unique, creative, collaborative, and culturally rich. Most importantly, we hope to share how our positive experiences also function as forms of resistance against systems of oppression. Our goal is to leave audience members feeling enlightened and informed about our identity.”