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Lawrenceville Celebrates the Cultures of the African Diaspora During Black History Month

Arts, culture, dance, faith, food, music, and history – Lawrenceville’s annual Black History Month celebration was filled with events that were “educational, inspirational, communal, and entertaining,” according to Cameron Brickhouse, the School’s dean of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement.

Two all-School meetings (Smeetings) were dedicated to the celebration. On February 16, Zaheer Ali (Executive Director of Lawrenceville’s Hutchins Institute for Social Justice) gave the keynote address titled, “To Struggle with Love,” which explored the tradition of radical love found in the Black freedom movement. He looked to literature, academics, and civil rights leaders to examine where one can find love and tenderness on the spectrum with justice.

“We need both love and power, but I would challenge this formulation and suggest perhaps love is the power. You cannot define love without power. You cannot define love without talking about the ways it makes people stronger . . . you cannot talk about love without talking about the ways it activates people to fight injustice,” Ali explained.

2023 BHM Smeeting -Zaheer Ali

At the February 23 Smeeting, collage murals created during last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events of King himself were displayed on stage, curated by Lawrenceville’s Artist-in-Residence Stuart Robertson ’11. He called the murals, created by students, “a manifestation of the great work we can do together.” The pieces will be on display at locations around campus.

2023 BHM Smeeting -Stuart Robertson

Robertson was followed by Xavier Penn ’25, who shared his original poem, “We Shall Never Fall.”

2023 BHM Smeeting - Xavier Penn 25

Next up was a show of Black-inspired fashions from the 1970s to the 2000s, courtesy of student affinity groups the Alliance of Black Cultures, Black Women at Lawrenceville, and Black Men at Lawrenceville -those groups gathered for a special dinner in Abbott earlier in the month.

2023 BHM Smeeting - 1960s Fashion

The meeting concluded with a stirring rendition of “I am Here” by vocalist Naa Kwama Ankrah ’23, who received a standing ovation.

2023 BHM Smeeting -Naa Kwama Ankrah 23

On February 13 and 20, the Hutchins Institute for Social Justice teamed up with Lawrenceville’s Office of Multicultural Affairs for “Listening as a Creative Act,” an exploration of the music of Black artists led by Ali. The Bunn Library sponsored two movie screenings, “Wakanda Forever” on February 22 and “Let it Shine” on February 25.

The celebrations culminated with AfroFest, a celebration of the cultures of the African Diaspora through food, crafts, games, music, and more, on February 25. Lawrenceville faculty provided some of the event’s many highlights, including  workshops on Jean-Michel Basquiat (led by Robertson), creative writing (led by English teacher/Diversity Coordinator Victoria Stitt), and vision boarding (led by math teacher Ajanae Bennett).

2023 BHM AfroFest B
2023 BHM Afro Fest C
2023 BHM Afro Fest - Stuart Robertson

Lawrenceville’s Black History Month celebration concluded on February 26 with a special Hallelujah! service, which featured prayer, music, and readings from celebrated literary figures.

“I liked the variety of activities that have been part of Black History Month,” said Rehanna Yakubu ’25. Fellow Third Former Mimie Pinpakornkul concurred, stating, “I liked this year’s Smeeting events, especially the painted murals, the fashion show, and the performances. And Naa Kwama’s singing - wow!”

For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.