Photos by Alloma Davidova
Athens Drive celebrates Black History Month
February 15, 2023
The Oracle Staff joins hands with Athens Drive administration, teachers and student body to celebrate Black History Month. Enjoy articles ranging from coverage of Ms. Wiggins morning announcements to the Black and Brown Student Union. Whoever you are, read to find some inspiration within these words.
Athens driving black excellence
The Athens Drive hallway is currently lined with a large poster detailing the different ways to show spirit for Black History Month. While the posters provide different things to wear in order to celebrate, there are many other ways that Athens shows their recognition of the historic month. Another way that Athens supports Black History month is through the daily morning announcements, where Shayla Wiggins, assistant principal at Athens, talks about a significant figure in black history and highlights memorable quotes for all of February.
“I think it’s important to know the history period. But especially with what is happening in our country, you know years and years ago, it’s just important for us to know where we’ve come from so that it can inform where we’re going,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins is very supportive of all cultures and has even given the Athens Oracle recommendations on how to showcase National Hispanic Heritage Month. Wiggins tends to be very invested in Athens and embodying its diversity.
“Storytelling is a really strong way to share experiences and what has happened. I think it helps people make connections to humanity to the people in stories because we’re all human we all can identify with a human experience,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins explored anecdotes that would be beneficial to students of all backgrounds. The information Wiggins shares during the announcements works to provide awareness in order to prevent ignorance of the subject.
“Taking advantage of opportunities to educate ourselves, to invest in our own learning to develop skills and to be great people. To learn and grow and not take it for granted” “ I can now appreciate that because I’m an educator,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins also advertises different events and activities related to Black History Month during the morning announcements. For example, the Black and Brown Student Union club holds different events including dance meetings after school that everyone is welcome to attend.
“Although history isn’t my go-to subject, I really like listening to Mrs. Wiggins talk about black history on the announcements, it brings students together even if history doesn’t interest them,” said Vy Nguyen, sophomore.
Wiggins’s anecdotes and announcements interest students of all backgrounds and give them things to talk about related to Black History Month. It’s important for everyone to learn about history, especially history that is not always spoken about.
“It’s not just for little black and brown kids who need to learn their history, it’s for all of us. We live together in this world and we’re all impacted by each other. I think it fosters connection, understanding and empathy,” said Wiggins.
Wiggins celebrates Black History Month on morning announcements
Photos by Evan Pike
Every day, right after the school-wide Pledge of Allegiance and right before the start of second period, Athens Drive students hear about a different African American leader in the history of the United States.
Doctor Kizzmekia Corbett: an immunologist who helped to create the Covid vaccination.
Doctor Jamison: a U.S. engineer, physician and NASA astronaut.
Mayor Jacques Gilbert: the Mayor of Apex, making history right down the street.
In light of Black History Month, one of Athens Drive’s own African American leaders, Shayla Wiggins, is taking initiative to inform the student body about Black achievements.
“One of the ideas behind Black History Month is to educate people on black history, on things that have happened in the past that they may not have known about,” said Wiggins. “There are people that we hear a lot about: Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Carter G. Woodson. When you hear “Black History Month, you’re going to hear their names. There’s a reason we celebrate them and we should continue to. I wanted to highlight stories and lives of people we may not know about.”
These people are meant to take the place of a sprinkle of morning inspiration for the student body. So, Wiggins made it a priority to ensure that all students could find some relevance in the selected person.
“We try to select people that had stories of triumph and overcoming obstacles and also people who were in the medical sciences, because of magnet theme is medical sciences and global health initiatives,”
said, Wiggins. “It’s important for all students– not just black and brown students, but also white students– to know that there are black people who studied medical sciences and excelled in it and that they might meet such people in their future journeys.”
Even then, some students and teachers may question the purpose these morning announcements serve.
“My goal, I hope, is a celebration. As a school family, we are celebrating the lives, the contributions, the excellence of people who happen to be Black,” said Wiggins. “We live in a country where we’ve received messages that relay that Black people are not able to do x, y, and z. We hear that message, but here are lives, here are examples and here are stories that contradict that message,” she said. “That’s a reason to celebrate: it’s something to be excited about, something to appreciate, something to acknowledge, something to respect, something to own and something to expect– something we should continue to expect.”
Athens Drive is a hub for diversity in and of itself. Yet, it is also a place where the direction provided by teachers and administrators is not always followed by students.
“I’m an administrator, so I see students being disciplined all the time. It’s no secret that students that are most affected by discipline, students that are highly suspended, typically are black and brown students. That is an American statistic,” said Wiggins. “That grieves me. I don’t like that. I’m the one giving out suspensions. When we see that happening, it could lead us to believe, ya know, that we may not be able to expect anything great moving forward. And I would [counter] that with ‘absolutely.’”
The administration at The Drive wants to send the message to the student body that they have faith in them and that they, too, can overcome the obstacles they are facing and reach the level of excellence of the leaders they hear about in the announcements.
“No one is perfect. People make mistakes. I’m not justifying bad behavior because bad behavior needs to be addressed. I want students who made poor choices to learn that there is a more excellent way.”
In her office, Wiggins homes a wooden block with the words ‘the best is yet to come.’ That block is a visible form of the confidence she holds for the value of the coming generations of today’s youth, including the Athens Drive student body.
“The best is yet to come. These are stories of people who have done great things, but what if the best is yet to come? Your generation and the coming students behind you, standing on your shoulders, are going to do even greater things. What if that’s the case?” said Wiggins. “It’s not only possible, but we are responsible for creating a better future. Every one of us has power within our own sphere of influence. Your power is not my power, my power is not your power. I cannot do what you can do. My position doesn’t authorize me to authorize your power, only you can do that.”
Black History Month as told through music
Black History Month can often be connected to one key thing: music. Throughout many historical hardships, black people have found ways of protest, freedom, and happiness through music.
Much of modern music stems from African-American created genres. From Jazz to the Blues to Rock n’ Roll, modern music as we know it came from African-Americans. These advancements, and the movements behind them, are celebrated and remembered as we remember Black History, especially throughout the month of February, Black History Month.
“I really love Ella Fitzgerald. She was a scat singer. She’s amazing. I love her. I also love Aretha Franklin… because she literally had the best runs in the industry,” said Kayla Arnold, member of ADHS Black & Brown Student Union, Chorus, and Athens Theatre Program.
Ella Fitzgerald, like Aretha Franklin, was a famous singer who was known for her perfection of the art of music. She was often called things like “the queen of jazz” or “ the first lady of jazz”. Fitzgerald had many well known songs such as Body and Soul and Easy Living and was a popular artist from the 1930s to the 1990s. She broke down many racial barriers through her singing and is an important figure on the topic of racial equality. Aretha Franklin, now deceased, was a singer also known as the “Queen of Soul.” She held free concerts, funded civil rights groups, and fundraised with Martin Luther King to gain support for the civil rights movement. Franklin is now known as a trailblazer for African-American women and the entire music industry.
“We [African-Americans] grew up on music. We went through a lot of hardship through music,” Arnold said.
Black artists in music have a direct connection to the impact and widespread celebration of Black History Month. African-American artists and musicians celebrate their historical accomplishments throughout the month of February and appreciate their past. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13.6% of musicians and singers in the music industry were black as of 2022. Although there has been criticism about the lack of diversity in the music industry, music is undoubtedly an important part of black history.
“I feel like this month just has so much to do with musically inclined people or just people who love to listen to music in general,” said Arnold.
Photos by mjimages
The legacy of student movements
North Carolina has always been a hub of student movements related to civil rights. The Greensboro sit-ins, organized by Shaw University’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to desegregate public lunch counters, shared a wider goal with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and the National Association of Colored People to fight for decency for black people across the United States. Now, sixty-three years later and just a few miles away, Athens Drive Magnet High School’s own black student movement is alive and thriving.
“We want everyone to feel included in a space that would otherwise exclude them.” Nevaeh Brooks, social media manager for the Black and Brown Student Student Union (BBSU).
During Black History month it is especially important to think about how these unions are making a difference in our community. These student unions help to promote inclusivity for students to feel safe.
She feels it is important for students to know that everyone is welcome, no matter how different they are. These student unions also promote diversity for students of every race to learn about black history.
Student unions have been around for a while now, and are still continuing to grow to this day. San Francisco State University hosted the establishment of the first Black student union in 1966. Soon after, Black student unions started to appear on campuses all over the country. Nevaeh herself speaks about how her personal family’s history has partaken in these unions as well.
“My grandmother did similar things to me when she was in high school and my dad when he was in high school so it was somewhat of a right of passage for me,” said Neveah Brooks, senior.
Many black students feel deprived of access to and exposure to black teachers and staff at primarily white institutions. Additionally, they could have trouble relating to peers from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Black student unions honor and promote black culture while institutions address their anti-black histories and racist legacies on campus.
Black student unions can provide a place of safety and cultural affirmation for students. A common cultural identity and on-campus experiences allow these students to connect with one another. 2020 was a very challenging year for many Black and Brown pupils due to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Many Black student unions planned how to increase public awareness of police violence. Additionally, they called for greater security and protections for Black students on campuses.
The first purposes of black student unions were to address political and civil rights issues, both on and off campus. The Black Campus Movement occurred between 1965 and 1972 and gave rise to black student unions. African American college students sought and demonstrated more campus inclusivity at this crucial juncture in history.
Additionally, the development of a student’s identity and academic achievement may benefit from involvement in these organizations. They also offer a community of solidarity for Black kids. These groups were a valuable source for student activity at colleges with a predominance of white students. These areas would be used by staff, instructors, and students for organizing, creating activist agendas and fighting racial prejudice. Black student unions have transitioned from being an activist or political organization to more of a social organization on many college campuses nowadays. Black student unions are frequently portrayed as popular and exclusive social clubs for Black students in famous television shows and films like “Grown-ish” and “Dear White People.” While these groups may still place a high value on activism, they now place a greater emphasis on developing and promoting peer cultures and/or peer socialization.
“As a Black and Brown Student Union, it’s our duty to be the voice for our students of color who don’t have a voice.” said Brooks.
BBSU educates students and staff on racial equality
Photos by Lexi Arana Banegas
African Americans facing racism, discrimination, and hate crimes, have been an ongoing problem for years even while having the protest and riots to spread awareness, clubs, and a month for their appreciation. Black History Month originated in 1976 right during the Jim Crow era, BHM honors what African Americans contribute and recognizes the sacrifices made to get where we are right now in society. A big factor of racism is faced in school, between teachers and students, students and students, and how it is all handled and should be handled.
At Athens Drive Magnet High School, We have the Black and Brown Student Union (BBSU) club that strives to inform others about the struggles that African Americans go through day to day.
“The BBSU Athens Drive Black and the brown student union will be bringing awareness to racism and empowerment and successively bias through our meetings, Happy black history month,” said Kennedy Truitt, BBSU member.
This is one way racism is being recognized, it’s being talked about in school. Racism isn’t something that will go away, but we can change the way it is handled in all aspects.
“One time I was not able in middle school to get into an honors English class despite my great exam grades and my grades always being straight A’s due to me being a colored African American,” said Truitt.
School is supposed to be a safe place for all students, they say.
“All the students at that school in the honors classes were predominantly white, my mom did some digging, and it turned out to not be a coincidence,” said Truitt.
You’d wonder what the principal of the school is doing to help, apparently nothing if it can be taken this far. The school must have a history of being racist if nobody is doing anything about it.
“A small example of being treated differently as a young adult is mainly working in service areas, I work in service so I try to be unbiased with everybody. Unfortunately, it is very common to see it with coworkers and bosses seeing them treat people differently based on the color of their skin,” said Truitt.
Racism isn’t a tiny inconvenience or a problem that just goes unnoticed or overlooked, it can be anywhere.
“You are given a choice. I don’t think people forcefully make anyone speak out about something that has happened to you, you have the complete space to do that but I know that speaking out may not always change anything but it will make you feel better although everyone is not always listening,” said Truitt.
Speaking out is optional, but even if it isn’t effective it’ll always be appreciated by someone, whether you or someone else.
“No, when I speak I speak up really loud, and If a teacher does not listen or acknowledge go to an administrator, and if they don’t listen you go to the Wake County superintendent and that’s how you use your voice,” said Truitt.
This is what it means to speak up if you are unheard once it doesn’t mean you give up. You don’t have to necessarily agree with, or like everyone, but you should at least be able to tolerate them.
“Having a completely unbiased state and being more aware of their subconscious biases you would see a lot more improvement in the world,” said Truitt.
Athens Drive BBSU promotes Black History Month
Junior Kennedy Truitt, head of the Black and Brown Student Union, shares what the school and the BBSU are doing to promote Black History Month. This year, the school is seemingly trying to get more involved than they have been in the past.
Currently the Student union and the BBSU are working together to help make Athens feel more comfortable and welcoming to the students of all backgrounds. There are posters and flyers hung up around the school with information about different black historical figures. Students are able to scan QR codes and read about the BBSU and how to get involved. This year, the student body got more involved helping the BBSU with spirit week for Black History Month.
“Without struggle there is no progress,” said Truitt, quoting civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois.
Truitt has been hosting information booths during lunch where she can help people with questions. This is important because even though the school is doing well, the students can always be more informed and involved. Keeping people informed is something that has helped the BBSU throughout the years.
“You can always be more involved.” said Truitt, meaning that there could always be more done.