Annual Black History Month Chapel Marks New Chapter in Celebrating Black Excellence

Just three weeks ago Grace held its 6th annual Black History Month Chapel hosted by Amazing Grace, the Black identifying affinity group. This year, the theme and focus was “Black Excellence”. The student-led chapel balanced reflections of trauma with the empowerment and celebration of Black voices. 

Amazing Grace took full advantage of zoom-circumstances by incorporating three different musical performances. The chapel was thoughtfully and thoroughly planned with the theme in mind.  Kai Williams ‘21 added, “[we] started with ‘Young, Gifted and Black.’ We tried to have that theme with the first three pieces saying, that’s who we are, young, gifted, and black.”

Throughout the chapel there were both original and recited pieces of literature presented by Black students, displaying individuality amidst issues that often group people together. The meeting concluded with a cover performance of “Rage Against The Machine” by Josh Magazine ‘22 and River Steinbach ‘22. Kai Williams recalled the performance to be “truly amazing,” mentioning how it “brought the life back” to a chapel bookended by letters detailing the hardships BIPOC students have experienced. “We wanted it to end it off fun.” 

Steinbach reflected on his performance saying, “I’ve been itching to make something for chapel all year, so when Ms. Carpenter reached out asking for stuff to put in the chapel I immediately texted Josh. Being able to make something you love while celebrating your blackness is awesome.” Along with a stellar show, Josh and River’s cover signified a change in who usually participates. Emily Williams ‘21 noted, “River and Josh’s performance serves as a tool for the black men within our community, promoting active participation and vulnerability during our chapel.” The voices against racism at Grace and other predominantly white private institutions have historically been mostly women. Throughout the chapel clear intentions were made to invite more men into the conversation, appearing most notably in Rose’s piece, “To A Dark Boy.”

You can view Rose’s performance here.

“The black man’s experience in private school differs from the black woman’s experience. It’s easier to assimilate to private school culture for black men because they’re still men and there’s still this idea that you can have some sort of power if you ignore all the struggles.” — Shomari Smith ‘21

The chapel’s purpose was to highlight our older Black students, honoring a myriad of experiences and effectively inspiring younger Black students to carry on the work. All the while stressing the “importance of Black affinity spaces, because it’s supposed to be an empowering thing to come to,” said Smith.

Also at the chapel spoke Camryn Dixon ‘21, who has been conducting research that focuses on the effects predominantly white institutions have on Black identity development. “I concluded that predominantly white schools trigger racial consciousness but don’t give black students the tool to develop a positive sense of their blackness. I am currently researching interventions that will hopefully foster positive Black identity development for students who are in this complicated environment, so if you are a Black 9th or 10th grader and would like to help in this research and help make change ,” stated Dixon.

“I think her research needs to be brought up more because it shows the trends of thinking of Black students at Grace in the high school,” remarked Kai Williams, adding, “older Black students tend to be more aware of what has happened to them and bringing this [research] up more might help prompt younger kids to reflect more early on.” 

Amazing Grace hoped to organize a chapel that shows that not every Black identifying person will have the same experience or response. Having everyone bring their own individuality to the table made that more visible than ever before.  

“I highly encourage anyone in the school community to make something about their identity and share it with the school because it’s honestly a joy.” River Steinbach ‘22

You can view the entire chapel via Gracenet here.