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Reflecting on Black History Month

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During the multicultural awareness activities each month at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD), students explore in class and in after school programs the diverse cultures that enrich our country. The activities lend themselves to both formal and informal learning as students have an opportunity to interact with guest presenters.

For Black History Month, students celebrated Kwanzaa and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. They also participated in workshops, attended lectures and panel discussions, and viewed movie performances by African American deaf performers and filmmakers in addition to interacting with black deaf role models from a variety of careers and backgrounds. For example, Teraca Florence, president of the Black Deaf Student Union at Gallaudet University, gave a workshop on February 16 to students on the qualities of leadership. What happened after the lecture showed an example of a role model in action.

At the conclusion of the workshop, a group of students gathered around Florence for a chat. They learned that through her sorority she works with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program. Some of the students from the MSSD Diversity Club asked if the program could be set up with Gallaudet students mentoring MSSD students. Florence followed up on this request and met with the students in their dorm; the Big Sisters program is now up and running. The MSSD boys hope to set up a Big Brother program.

"This is the type of interaction with role models that we wanted from Black History Month at MSSD," said Judy Stout, MSSD student enhancement educator. "We introduced black deaf role models from different careers and backgrounds. We wanted the students to see these role models as people they could network with for career ideas and support."

One of the participants on the Sharing Success Stories panel, held on February 17, was Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, a professor in the American Sign Language and Deaf Studies Program at Gallaudet University. McCaskill shared her experiences of growing up in the segregated culture of Mobile, Alabama, during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Students also had the opportunity to view Compensation starring MSSD alumna Michelle Banks, "What Are You...Deaf?" by comedian CJ Jones, and Cutting the Edge of a Free Bird by director Ann "Jade" Bryan.

Black History Month was part of a year-long multicultural calendar of events sponsored by the MSSD Office of Student Activities and Student Life in collaboration with Gallaudet University's Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Office of Diversity and Equality for Students. MSSD students Tanea Brown and Emmanuel Njoku, Diversity Club president and vice president, respectively, assisted with the planning of multicultural events.