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Black Awareness Club Hosts Successful Feast Honoring Black History Month

By: Eva Mandelbaum

On Tuesday February 7, the Black Awareness Club hosted a celebratory feast including over 30 dishes in B1 Cafeteria to kick off Black History Month. To call this event a success would be an understatement. WPHS community members enjoyed learning about and eating the dishes that play an important role in Black culture.

This event would not have been possible without Ms. Melcher, the adviser of the Black Awareness Club, who came up with the idea for the event when planning activities to celebrate Black History Month as a school community. “I love to cook and wanted to highlight the different cuisines of the people of the African Diaspora,” she explained. “The vision was to invite other clubs to participate in our celebration of the most popular dishes in various Black cultures and cuisines. I wanted to marry my love of cooking and the national celebration of Black History Month.”

Ms. Melcher’s vision became the reality of the event thanks to both her hard work (she made 12 of the 30 dishes served) and the generous contributions of other teachers, clubs, local restaurants (Sundance Kitchen and Cantina, Cravin’ Jamaican, Caribbean Thyme, and Kennedy Fried Chicken, all of which are in White Plains), and community members.

One especially notable contributor is Ms. Marlene Gillings-Gayle, a retired WPHS teacher who ran the Black Awareness Club for over 20 years. “Although she is retired, she continues to make generous contributions to the club,” Ms. Melcher said.

From retired teachers to Superintendent Dr. Ricca—who came to enjoy some food and converse with teachers and students—there is no doubt that this event brought many members of the community together.

“I didn’t want to celebrate Black History Month in isolation with just my club members; I wanted to include as much of the school community as possible,” Ms. Melcher explained. “This event created a space where the school community could come together to celebrate a segment of our population.”

Students who attended the feast are in complete agreement with Ms. Melcher. “It’s important to celebrate other people’s cultures and to learn more about other people. The more we learn about other people, the more aware we are and conscious of different things,” WPHS senior Victoria Brice shared. “White Plains High School’s a very diverse population, so it’s really important to shed light and celebrate people of those different backgrounds.”

Freshmen Eryn DuBois and Eiceis Davis-Moore were both excited to attend. Eryn said that she was happy to get the chance to socialize and be around people who she could learn from, and Eiceis said that she feels like events like these are important “so that representation is spread while bringing people together and also exposing people to different cultures.”

Junior Emiliano Juarez emphasized that it’s important to learn about different cultures and to “celebrate those traditions with the people that are originally from the cultures.” Another junior, Alisha Ahmed, said, “Sometimes we can be so [consumed] with ourselves [that] we don’t really know what other cultures are like so it’s important to know everyone.”

The event is truly the embodiment of WPHS’s dedication to diversity and inclusion. Imani Kegode, a WPHS junior who attended the event said, “I think it just shows the diversity of this school and the initiative that students take towards honing that inclusivity in and emphasizing that we’re not just one size fits all. Our school is very diverse, and it just shows what the student body’s able to do when we come together and organize something like this.”

Students who may have never had a chance or reason to try foods like Haitian diri djon djon (black mushroom rice), or Haitian soup joumou (a traditional soup Haitians make on the first of January to celebrate their independence from French colonial rule) had the opportunity to enjoy these foods and gain a new understanding of Black culture and why we celebrate Black History Month.

“Black History Month is an amalgamation of the varied histories, narratives, and experiences of all black people,” Ms. Melcher said. “There is the shared history of oppression and triumph of the will to make advancements socially, politically, economically, and culturally. Black people have made innumerable contributions to society on a global level. Black History Month allows everyone to reflect on those contributions.”

When asked what Black History Month means to her, Eryn explained that it “means empowering the history of Black and African American people and looking back at the past and seeing how we got to where we are now.” The sense of community in the cafeteria during the feast was undeniable, proving that honoring Black History by sharing Black cuisine and culture with the WPHS Community is a way to work towards creating an overall more inclusive school environment.

“Coming together to break bread and share a delicious meal was a way to break down the walls and barriers that keep us separated as a school community,” Ms. Melcher shared. “It was a beautiful, inspiring example of what happens when we go above and beyond the call of duty to create special, indelible experiences for all of our students.”

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