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US Cancelled black history event encouraged white students to 'dress up' as black leaders

16:45  14 february  2020
16:45  14 february  2020 Source:   floridatoday.com

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One black student said she went home and cried after seeing what was asked. But black immigrants often come from countries where they are in the majority. That was the case for panelist After the event , the school pointed to a statement from the LDS Church that called white supremacist

for Black History Month may take an offensive turn after students were encouraged to dress up as The homework assignment asked students to research and present an African-American of African-Americans in our country’s history , they’re concerned that a white student dressing up in

A planned Black History Month event at a majority-white Brevard County high school encouraged students to come to school wearing an "African themed head wrap or turban" and "dress up as an inspiring black leader."

Plans for what Melbourne High School Principal Chad Kirk called a "black history spirit week" in an email to parents were cancelled Thursday after the school began receiving complaints, Kirk told FLORIDA TODAY.

"After reflecting on the decision, I wanted to make sure we were being culturally sensitive to students on campus and in the community," Kirk said.

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Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month.

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The week-long event, which Kirk said was devised by a group of black students, was scheduled to begin next Monday and featured daily "themes" like:

  • "Wear your African themed Dashiki shirt"
  • "Wear an African themed head wrap or turban"
  • "Dress up as an inspiring black leader from history"
  • "Wear all black in honor of black history month"
  • "Wear the colors of your favorite African flag"
a sign on the side of a building: Melbourne High School© CAROLINE GLENN/FLORIDA TODAY Melbourne High School

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In a Wednesday email announcing the event, Kirk encouraged "all students" to participate. Only about 7% of students at the school are black, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

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Leaders of the Black Student Alliance agreed, saying that they felt silenced by the event and how it was planned without their consultation, and that demonstrations would be more orderly and effective if they were not planned by different groups without coordination.

Last year, districtwide, black students were 41 percent of the overall student population, but made up 76 percent of the suspensions. Nationally, black students are suspended three times as often as their white peers; in Minnesota, it is eight times as often.

The event had not yet taken place and there were no reports of any incidents. Nevertheless, Kirk was quick to issue an apology in a follow-up email Thursday, calling his endorsement an "error in judgement."

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Melbourne High Principal Chad Kirk© CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY BREVARD PUBLIC SCHOOLS Melbourne High Principal Chad Kirk

"I realize that decision gave the impression that I took the history and challenges of our African-American community lightly," Kirk wrote. "I wish to convey my personal apology to any individuals or groups who may have been offended by my short-sighted decision."

A handful of people on social media expressed outrage, including some current and former students who labeled the planned event "racist" and "out-of-touch."

Carmel Alshaibi, a senior in the school's International Baccalaureate program, said at first she thought it was a bad joke.

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White students were dressed as chain gangs and basketball players. They danced to hip-hop music and emulated Another white sorority began working with a black fraternity to join in, as well. The white students thanked him for the explanation, and their leaders encouraged their chapters not to

Black history is American history , however, observing Black History Month in February gives us a chance to be intentional about learning this Then host a living museum right in your classroom. Students can dress up as the figure they chose and share what they learned through their research.

"It just seemed so ridiculous," she said, adding she felt the idea was "condescending" to people of color.

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"It’s also a blatant example of whitewashing by appropriating sacred clothing from Africans and treating it like dress up," Alshaibi said.

Melbourne High alum and community activist Patricia Davis said she was pleased Kirk cancelled the event, calling it "poorly conceived."

"They could talk to any African American group to get feedback on what would be appropriate," Davis said via text.

"As a bulldog (alumnus) and someone who celebrates black history during Kwanzaa, it's very important that we treat all of our students with respect to their culture and history," she said.

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Kirk agreed, saying he got caught up in the excitement of the students who pitched the idea. He said he discussed the idea with "a few individuals on staff" before sending the email, but admitted he should have done more.

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‘We understand the importance of Black History Month and celebrate this by studying the success and achievements of black role models. ‘The content of this letter is not in keeping with the ethos of the school or a reflection of how the school celebrates Black History Month.’

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States. That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of

"On reflection, I really should have taken the opportunity to sit with those students and educate them on what could happen with an event like this," he said.

"We're looking forward to moving on next week and continuing to celebrate the achievements of African American leaders in our classrooms."

Eric Rogers is the education watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Please consider subscribing to support important local news on education, business, crime and other topics you care about.

Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or esrogers@floridatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricRogersFT.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Cancelled black history event encouraged white students to 'dress up' as black leaders

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