Sidwell Affinity Clubs Celebrate Black History Month

Throughout February, Sidwell’s Black Student Union (BSU) and Black Girls Society (BGS) organized a multitude of activities to celebrate Black History Month. The clubs’ programming aimed to not only celebrate Black culture but also to work toward progress in both the Sidwell Friends community and society. 

In February, the BSU hosted weekly events. The first of these events was Black Jeopardy, where three teams competed to test their knowledge of famous Black historical figures. 

Jeopardy was the favorite event of junior Chris Russell, a BSU member. “It shows how much we have learned [because we] know all the answers at the end [and] causes the past to never be forgotten,” he explained. 

Other events included a joint meeting with the Meditation Club, which brought attention to Black mental health, and alumni panels. One panel consisted of recent alumni who talked about their Sidwell experiences and their college lives, additionally offering college advice to Upper School students. 

The second panel involved older alumni, who spoke about their Sidwell experiences, the BSU when they were in high school and how Sidwell impacted their life as they progressed through their careers. 

Junior Becki M’mari, a BSU Head, emphasized the importance of these events. 

“The only way to advocate to improve the Sidwell community is to listen to the people who have fully experienced it and gauge what the alumni would have done to make their high school experience better,” said M’mari. “This way future generations of Sidwell students can have the best experience possible.”

BGS also aimed to improve future students’ experiences by spotlighting Black women’s hair via the annual “I Love My Hair Day” celebration hosted on Valentine’s Day. During the school day, red and pink ribbons were handed out to Middle and Upper School students and faculty who identified as Black women.

Senior Amelia Warren, head of BGS, said that the goals of this year’s event were to celebrate non-straight hair types and to provide an opportunity for people to showcase their natural hair. 

“Society typically caters toward people with thin, straight hair, hence why so many people with curly hair will straighten or heavily style it,” Warren said. “The overall goal [of the day] is to normalize natural hair — curls, coils, frizz and all! — and help create a more inclusive society.”

The day also helps foster a sisterhood within the Sidwell community. 

Sophomore Winta Brhane, a BGS member, found the day to be “fun, meaningful and happy.” She felt supported, and enjoyed the atmosphere of happiness throughout the day. 

BGS also hosted an after-school event where Black students and faculty gave each other hair care tips, sampled a hair care product, played a Black Hair Trivia Kahoot and ate snacks.

All Sidwell students who did not identify as Black females were able to participate in “I Love My Hair Day” by wearing black ally ribbons to show support for natural Black hair, for which Black people frequently face discrimination. 

Sophomore and BGS Head McKenzie Manley enjoyed seeing allies wear black ribbons to demonstrate their support. “It made me feel seen and heard, which I appreciated,” she said.

Allies from all grades participated in the event. 

“The tradition of “I Love My Hair Day” at Sidwell is a wonderful way to honor Black girls and their beautiful hair,” sophomore Erica Lu said when asked why she wore a black ribbon. 

Senior Julia Margie agreed, saying, “I wanted to support my friends and their efforts to push back against oppression in big, structural ways, and smaller (but no less important) anti-microaggression ways, including making people feel more comfortable in their normal body and hair.” 

“I Love My Hair Day” held symbolic meaning for many participants. 

Freshman Ananeah Nevil explained that following the Black Lives Matter movement, “I want[ed] to be able to help in this struggle as much as possible.” 

The events led by BSU and BGS during Black History Month showcased Black pride, awareness and history, ultimately helping to advance equity at Sidwell.