The Berkeley Unified School District celebrates Black History Month to commemorate the histories, traditions, and important contributions of Black people to our nation.
On June 10, 2020, the Board of Education adopted a resolution in support of Black Lives Matter as a symbol of Berkeley Unified School District’s ongoing commitment to focus unerringly on the success of African American students, families, and staff members, and to serve as a visible affirmation of the movement for racial equality in the United States.
A Message From Superintendent Ford Morthel:
In addition to our mission to enable and inspire our diverse student body to achieve academic excellence and make positive contributions to our world, BUSD is committed to ensuring Excellence, Equity, Enrichment and Engagement to the students that we serve.
As a school district that values diversity, we believe Black History and the diverse histories, experiences, stories and voices of Black people should be recognized, honored, and uplifted every day. We also value the fundamental opportunity that Black History Month and Black Lives Matter at School Week provides us to elevate, lift up and affirm the rich history and many contributions of the Black community in all of our lives. As we celebrate throughout the month of February, we must also acknowledge there is deep and challenging work ahead of us to shift our inherently racist structures.
We begin our celebration by honoring the legacy of historian Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History Month, who established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in 1915 and who launched what would become Black History Month, in 1926. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) continues to set the theme each year, and the theme for 2022 is Black Resistance.
In 2020, when Black Lives Matter protests spread across the nation, our School Board passed the Resolution in Support of Black Lives Matter, which values resistance as a means for accountability and growth.
Black Joy is the theme of this year’s Oratorical Fest which begins with competitions at our school sites in February and culminates with the district-wide competition in March. Celebrating Black Joy cultivates pride, self-worth, self-love, and resilience in our Black students. Black Joy is also a form of Black Resistance. During Black Lives Matter at School Week, celebrated this year from February 6-10, students will be supported to look back and learn about exemplary Black people in history and Black Resistance movements. They will also learn about and discuss issues affecting the Black community at this moment.
During our celebration of Black History this month, we must also honor the lived experiences of each and every one of our Black students in our classrooms. As educators, we must be mindful of who we center in these discussions and how we support our Black students during and afterwards.
The Black History Month TK-8 Teaching Guide and Family Guide are a set of curated lessons, songs, local organizations, biographies, podcasts, and more. These resources are offered as a support to our teaching staff and families, as another way to bring Black resistance, Black excellence, Black wellness, and Black joy to our schools and homes today and every day.
Enikia Ford Morthel
Black Lives Matter at School Week
As part of the resolution adopted on June 10, 2020, one week in the month of February is recognized as Black Lives Matter at School Week for the Berkeley Unified School District. Black Lives Matter at School Week serves as an extension of the centering of racial justice set forth by #BlackLivesMatter within the BUSD Community. During this week, discussions about anti-black racism and discrimination are encouraged in classrooms and at home.
#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. The movement aims to dismantle white supremacy via combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy.
Black History Oratorical Fest March 20
Banner image features “Black Joy” by artist Thaddeus Coates aka Hippy Potter
The First BUSD Black History Oratorical Fest
The first BUSD Black History Oratorical Fest Competition was held in 2018 with the purpose of uplifting Blackness while providing Berkeley students with an opportunity to shine through public speaking. Students recited published or original speeches, skits, spoken word, and poems from educators, entrepreneurs, government officials, and other authors related to that year’s theme.
About This Year’s Theme: Black Joy!
This year’s theme encourages our students to present original or published speeches focused on voicing the beauty and power of Black Joy. The audience will enjoy a variety of spoken word, speeches, and poetry performances by our talented students.
Student and Family Resources
These resources are intended to help students and families prepare for participation in Berkeley Unified’s Black History Oratorical Festival coming later this school year.
Lifting Up BUSD Black Staff Voices
In celebration of our Black community, this year BUSD has introduced “Lifting Up BUSD Black Staff Voices,” a campaign to share our Black staff narratives with our students and community by creating posters featuring their stories and experiences. These posters will be displayed at schools, work sites, on the BUSD website, and in district publications. Sharing these narratives with our students will allow them to deepen connections with Black staff across the district.
Please click on each image to see a full-sized poster.
Dr. Dawn “Doc Dub” Williams
African Diaspora Dance Teacher/ African American Studies Department Co-chair
Berkeley High School