What Does Black History Month Mean to You?

GPS Student
This February, members of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Forum focused on what Black history means to them, why it’s important for the GPS community, how everyone can celebrate, and what support looks like. Three of our senior leaders share their thoughts below.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
Soree Kim ’23: BHM is a month of thankfulness and uplifting. The Civil Rights movement, filled with remarkable Black women and men, created legislation that advanced American society so that all people of color have more rights. Although the world we live in today is not perfect, it is important to be thankful for those who sacrificed to better the conditions that we all live in. BHM allows us to be inspired by those before us and pushes us to work together with hope to make the United States what it really is—the land of opportunities and dreams for everyone. 

Ja’niah Cooper ’23: BHM is a chance to more deeply appreciate and share my culture. I love to learn about and appreciate other cultures, but there’s nothing that brings me more joy than being able to share my own. No matter where I go or what I do in life, I’m proud to be African American first and foremost. I’ve certainly struggled with accepting myself and my culture over the years, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful to have this month to help educate others and spread awareness about what Black culture truly is. 

Santana Etchison ’23: BHM gives me a chance to appreciate those who came before me who fought the status quo so that I can have the rights I do now. Without those influential people, I wouldn’t have a chance to go to as great of a school as GPS! African American activists gave so much of their time and effort fighting for me, and I feel as though I owe it to them to be the best version of myself and encourage others to do the same. BHM gives me a chance to not only appreciate those involved in the civil rights movement, but also modern Black trailblazers.

Is there a Black woman or a moment of Black history that influenced you?
Santana: Every girl remembers the first Disney princess they related to. For me that is Princess Tiana from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. This movie had an influential impact on me at the ripe age of 5, because I hadn’t seen a Black princess before. Tiana had dreams of opening up her own restaurant and was met with racial discrimination along the way. With persistence, she got her restaurant and proved those who doubted her wrong. At a young age, she taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to no matter what others say, and that is an important lesson I think every GPS girl can benefit from. In reality, being a Black woman and tennis player, I don’t see much representation. However, Serena and Venus Williams showed me through their courage and determination that I can still succeed in a sport with little minority representation.

Why is Black History Month important for the GPS community?
Soree: BHM is important for GPS because it teaches all girls to either connect with their culture or learn more about a culture different from their own.

Santana: BHM is important for all students at GPS because it celebrates the Black women and men who have contributed to the society we live in now. Often we view our parents and grandparents as the most influential people in our lives. However, there are countless others who have paved the way for everyone, including teachers, administrators, doctors, those who fight hard for our country to be safe, and many more. BHM recognizes those who did the exact same thing but in even harder conditions. 

Ja’niah: So many BHM conversations revolve around commonly known people and events: MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, slavery, inventions, and so on. While these are crucial to understanding Black history, they’re not the only thing to focus on either. So much of American (and world) culture has been influenced by Black people, a fact that often goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Everyday things like art, fashion, music, food, and language have been influenced by Black culture in ways that would be unknown if not intentionally sought out and understood.

How can everyone celebrate and support Black History Month?
Ja’niah: I encourage all of you to take this BHM to intentionally learn more about Black influence on America and how we can continue to embrace Black history this month and beyond. Black history is in everything!
Santana: I hope all GPS families will celebrate with me in learning more about Black culture.