Black History Month at Horizons For Homeless Children

Black History Month at Horizons

Black History Month is a time of collective inspiration at Horizons. An employee-led and leadership-supported celebration, staff activities connect employees to Black history’s place in American history and their own unique backgrounds.

Throughout the years, Black History Month has continued to evolve and grow at Horizons. Spearheaded by Assistant Director of Horizons’ Early Education Centers, Shavon Drayton, Black History Month activities allow Horizons’ employees to build community as they reflect on the month’s meaning.

“We are a nonprofit organization that serves communities of color and sits in the heart of Roxbury. Educating our staff and students during Black History Month is a way to show children and remind ourselves of the heroes who are from communities of color. It’s a platform to continue the dialogue about how we can create a more inclusive future,” said Shavon.

Shavon is the acting co-chair of the People of Color employee resource group, along with fellow co-chair, Cipriana Galvao, a Human Resources Generalist at Horizons. Cipriana has joined Shavon in not only powerfully commemorating Black History Month but celebrating Black history and starting important dialogues all year long at Horizons.

“It is exciting to see the way Black History month has evolved into a cherished time at Horizons inside and outside of the classroom. It has grown into a celebration focused on education, reflection and collective respect for diversity and culture,” shared Shavon.

Horizons’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion runs deep and is about much more than a month of recognition.

“At Horizons we are committed to having a diverse workforce that mirrors the communities we serve, a workplace that is welcoming of all people and their ideas and has equitable business practices that provide fair opportunities for every employee. Seeing and valuing the unique experiences and perspectives of our colleagues of color is something we should be doing all the time because it makes our work and ultimately our society better for it,” said Horizons’ CEO & President, Kate Barrand.

Using Literature as Catalyst for Discussion

To foster education and reflection during Black History Month, all employees are invited to join a book club. The books chosen are written by black authors, touching on themes of race and identity. Past books include Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” and Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”

The book club, now a tradition of BHM in its third year, is reading “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book drives discussion, opening the doors for staff to engage in important dialogue and this year, drew attendees from all backgrounds, more than ever before.

“Since the book club’s inception I’ve found that it is an incredible way to start difficult conversations,” said Shavon. “Many of our staff members have found that the authors of these books are able to articulate what they have been feeling, but haven’t been able to put into words, and it’s amazing to see the conversations that grow from that.”

The book club meets throughout the month, culminating with a virtual dinner and discussion. In the past, staff and leadership spent the final book club meeting enjoying discussion over dinner at a Black owned restaurant. However, this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, staff will dine together virtually. Dinner will be provided from locally Black owned restaurant, Murl’s Kitchen, located in Dorchester and staff can pick up their dinner from Horizons’ Roxbury center.

Staff also gathered twice virtually to watch the movie adaptation of “Between the World and Me” and discuss its significance and their thoughts on the movie.

BHM In the Classroom

Black History Month at Horizons For Homeless Children

In addition to staff celebrations, teachers are encouraged to bring Black History Month into the classroom, honoring its place in American history and their students’ own ancestry.

“Our goal is for staff and students alike to feel proud of their heritage and publicly celebrate that pride,” said Shavon, “not just during Black History Month, but all year round.”

In Roxbury, Preschool students made a Black History Month quilt. The “quilt” is a series of images woven together and hung on the wall. The quilt includes homemade books by students about Rosa Parks, images of Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson and Frederick Douglas next to paragraphs describing their stories. In Dorchester, staff filled the hall with images of prominent black artists, activists, and authors. In Jamaica Plain, Toddler teachers created a Black History Month facts wall, sharing facts about prominent black figures throughout history.

When a child sees themselves reflected in a person who is celebrated for their success, in whatever capacity, that has a lasting impact on a young child. It instills in them a confidence that they can achieve too, in whatever capacity they choose.

Black History Month has been and continues to be a valuable moment to highlight the Black community. But Horizons is committed to making sure this is not a token activity as we look to our staff, families, supporters and community to join us as we identify and fight inequity when and where we see it all year long.

This post was written by Rachel San Giacomo, a regular contributor to Horizons’ blog.