QV Black Student Union promotes inclusion

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 11:01 PM

Corinne Washington wowed a room full of kindergartners at Osborne Elementary with a story about colors.

While the Quaker Valley High School basketball star laughed along with the kids and answered questions about her favorite movies and interests, she was there for an even more valuable lesson: To share the importance of Black History Month with students.

“Back in the day, black people didn’t have the same rights as other people. Throughout history, there have been black people that have done some really great things,” Corinne, 16, explained to the class.

Members of the Quaker Valley High School Black Student Union visited classrooms at Osborne Elementary on Feb. 21 and were scheduled to visit Edgeworth Elementary on Feb. 27. While there, they read to youngsters and shared with them the importance of inclusion.

Schools across the district are doing things to honor Black History Month. Fifth-grade teachers at Edgeworth also are teaching students about civil rights. At the middle school, there are numerous lessons being taught in the classroom around Black History Month.

“I think that black history is only (celebrated) in February,” said junior Malcolm Jordan, 17, the founder of the Black Student Union at the high school. “We want to change that. It’s American history. It’s all of our history. It’s not just in February that we have to talk about black history or these black figures that have done something for our country.”

While working on his self-directed learning project, Malcolm came up with the idea to launch a Black Student Union at Quaker Valley High School. But he wanted it to be more than an idea.

He worked with staff and administrators to bring the union to life.

“It is to help African American students in the district unite and talk about issues that are unique to African American kids in this district and also to help educate their classmates, the community, the staff, that excellence has no color,” said Floyd Faulkner, community youth worker in the district who serves as the union’s staff advisor.

The Black Student Union also provides a safe space to talk about issues that are affecting African American students, Faulkner said. Although, the group is inclusive and invites all races to join.

“We believe that diversity helps everyone,” he said.

The union, which is still in its infancy stages, already has done community service, hosting a fundraiser for the Sewickley Community Center. The hope is to do more community service projects, Malcolm said.

The group hung posters throughout Quaker Valley High School for Black History Month. The posters include a QR code so that students can scan them on their phones and learn more about the topic.

“We want to show that black people can be more than just athletes and rappers. We can be scientists or innovators, that a lot of people don’t think about,” Malcolm said.

Reading to elementary students was a way union members could further connect with the community.

“Hopefully we can get them to get inspired. As they see us, they want to become leaders in their community,” Malcolm said.

Corinne said she sees the importance of sharing information about Black History Month with younger students.

“In Sewickley, there’s not a lot of diversity and so every chance you get, you should capitalize on the opportunities to show diversity in the community,” she said. “I hope that they can come to have an appreciation for black culture and black history because it is very important and it’s a very big part of American culture as a whole.”

Freshman Sylvia Carrasco, 15, read “Hair Love,” by Matthew A. Cherry to students.

She selected the book because she was having a stressful morning when a hair tie got stuck and her mom had to cut it out.

“I said, ‘You know what, I love my hair either way! So why not read about it,’” she said.

This was an important topic to share with students.

“Part of being a black girl is the hair,” Corinne said.

Youngsters understood the message and the importance of Black History Month.

Wes Weisberg, 6, said it was wrong the way people mistreated African Americans. “We know that’s not right and we should never do that to black people — not let them do stuff,” he said.

Jane Pecze, 6, said it’s important to see people for who they are, not the color of their skin. “Don’t talk about the color. Just be liking them and asking them if they want to be friends,” she said.