Sharing a Black background

Justice and Diversity League creates Black History Month display to inform students on the past


Photo courtesy of Jetta Hoffner

Throughout the month of February, Millard West, alongside the rest of the country, celebrates Black History Month. The Justice and Diversity League put up a display in front of the library on Feb. 1 that includes a timeline of Black historical figures, graphics, informational posters and interactive book QR codes for students to learn from. “Mostly it’s informational and designed for anyone to stop by anytime and take a look,” social studies teacher and Justice and Diversity Leauge sponsor Bryant Bull said. “So it’s not necessary for a person to read everything we included in one sitting. We hope people will stop by multiple times this month.”

Kaitlin Reynolds, News Director

With the beginning of February marking the start of Black History Month in the United States, schools across the country are implementing ways for students to expand their knowledge of Black history. At Millard West, the Justice and Diversity League has been leading this effort.

The group put up their annual display in front of the library on Tuesday, Feb. 1., consisting of a series of posters, quotes, a timeline and eye-catching graphics meant to inform students on different aspects of Black history. Thurgood Marshall, Hiram Revels, Blanche K. Bruce, A. Philip Randolf, David Walker and several other influential people of color are featured alongside facts about their lives and their impact on society. 

In preparation for the display to go up, Justice and Diversity League members spent the month of January researching Black historical figures and crucial events in Black history. The display has been a growing tradition for the past two years, and the group has built upon the informative gallery by creating additional posters and elements. 

“We researched a little bit of everything that relates to famous Black people and Black people in general who had an impact on the Black community,” sophomore Manuella Komla-Ebri said. “We tried to add people who we didn’t add on our display last year that are less well known.”

New, interactive pieces have helped to attract even more students. With the assistance of teacher librarian Mindy Jorgensen, Black literature has been added. QR codes that go along with book covers can be found on the display. When scanned, they link to literature by diverse authors with diverse characters and provide students with more information about the titles. Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures,” Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” and Patricia Hruby Powell’s “Loving vs. Virginia” have made their way onto the wall alongside others.

“Reading books by authors who can provide a different perspective can provide readers with the opportunity to experience stories through different lenses and that can really open their minds to other viewpoints, which makes for a more knowledgeable and understanding person,” Jorgensen said. “It’s also important for readers to get to hear from authors that have similar experiences: grew up where they did, look like they do, etc. It can be very empowering.”   

The wall incorporates not only the well known like Martin Luther King Jr., but also the less famous and equally influential Black historical figures such as Marsha P. Johnson — an American gay liberation activist and drag queen who was a key part of Stonewall. For Justice and Diversity League member, sophomore Grace Lepin, she has learned about Black leaders, who she was not taught about in class, from creating materials to go on the display.

“I learned that there are a lot of people that did a lot of things that aren’t really talked about,” Lepin said. “People did movements that you never really hear of and it was really interesting to have the opportunity to research it and learn about it. It is really important for students to learn about Black history because it spreads awareness and allows students to learn in order to make an informed opinion about the topic.”

The goal of the display is for students to take with them at least one piece of knowledge about Black history as they walk past. Through the information shared students can gain an appreciation for Black culture and history.

There are so many parts of U.S. history that involve the contributions of African Americans, and our greatest hope is that students will be inspired to make every month Black History Month that is, to think of our country’s history as the history of all people living here,” social studies teacher and Justice and Diversity League sponsor Bryant Bull said. “This month is about increasing awareness. All eleven other months are about learning how many different groups of Americans have contributed to our nation’s story.”

Come the end of February, the display will be taken down and the information shared will reside with students. In order to continue to share the history of previously oppressed groups the wall will quickly be filled with Women’s History Month information as March begins.