Wiggins celebrates Black History Month on morning announcements
February 21, 2023
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.”