Black History Month is more than just a month

Olivia Guy

‌This February the school‌ ‌division‌ ‌launched‌ ‌a‌ ‌city-wide‌ ‌Black‌ ‌History‌ ‌Initiative‌ ‌that‌ ‌marked‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌black‌ ‌history‌ ‌program‌ ‌in‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach.‌ ‌This‌ ‌program‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌start‌ ‌of‌ ‌several‌ initiatives‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌take‌ ‌place‌ ‌to‌ ‌support‌ ‌the‌ ‌exploration,‌ ‌examination,‌ ‌and‌ ‌communication‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌lived‌ ‌experience‌ ‌of‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach‌ ‌citizens.‌ ‌ ‌

In the form of a webinar, the opening session had ‌‌multiple‌ ‌guest‌ ‌speakers‌ ‌and‌ ‌an‌ ‌additional‌ ‌panel‌ ‌of‌ ‌speakers‌ ‌that‌ ‌provided‌ ‌insightful‌ ‌answers‌ ‌to‌ ‌questions‌ ‌proposed.‌ ‌ ‌
The‌ ‌first‌ ‌guest‌ ‌speaker‌ ‌was‌ ‌Superintendent‌ ‌Dr.‌ ‌Aaron‌ ‌Spence.‌ ‌He‌ ‌provided‌ ‌a‌ ‌noteworthy‌ ‌speech‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌history‌ ‌of‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌school‌ ‌system.

The main point of the speech was, ‌In‌ ‌1912‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach‌ ‌was‌ ‌known‌ ‌as‌ ‌Princess‌ ‌Anne‌ ‌County‌ ‌and‌ ‌there‌ ‌were‌ ‌no‌ ‌schools‌ ‌for‌ ‌African‌ ‌American‌ ‌students‌ ‌beyond‌ ‌the‌ ‌7th‌ ‌grade.‌ ‌Those‌ ‌who‌ ‌could‌ ‌pay‌ ‌the‌ $‌1,000‌ ‌tuition‌ ‌had‌ ‌the‌ ‌option‌ ‌to‌ ‌send‌ ‌their‌ ‌child‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌black‌ ‌high school‌ ‌in‌ ‌Norfolk.‌ ‌Between‌ ‌1934‌ ‌and‌ ‌1938‌ ‌the‌ ‌“Princess‌ ‌Anne‌ ‌county‌ ‌training‌ ‌school‌ ‌association”‌ ‌added‌ ‌grades‌ eight‌ ‌through‌ ‌11 ‌to‌ ‌Union‌ ‌Kempsville‌ ‌School,‌ ‌which‌ ‌was‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌black‌ ‌high‌ ‌school‌ ‌in‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach.‌ ‌ ‌

‌The‌ ‌school‌ ‌Included‌ ‌only‌ ‌four‌ ‌classrooms,‌ ‌no‌ ‌desks,‌ ‌no‌ ‌cafeteria,‌ ‌no‌ ‌indoor‌ ‌bathrooms,‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌library‌ ‌had‌ ‌one‌ ‌book,‌ ‌a‌ ‌dictionary.‌ ‌In‌ ‌1969,‌ ‌desegregation‌ ‌called‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌removal‌ ‌of‌ Kempsville‌ ‌Union‌ ‌high school‌ ‌which‌ ‌marked‌ ‌the‌ ‌last‌ ‌black‌ ‌school‌ ‌in‌ ‌Princess‌ ‌Anne‌ ‌County.‌ Spence‌ ‌concluded‌ ‌his ‌speech‌ ‌with‌ ‌“Despite‌ ‌the‌ ‌racial‌ ‌injustice‌ ‌we‌ ‌see‌ ‌every day,‌ ‌we‌ ‌must‌ ‌take‌ ‌ a‌ ‌stand‌ ‌against‌ ‌it,‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌a‌ ‌thing‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌past,‌ ‌a‌ ‌thing‌ ‌of‌ ‌history.‌ ‌There‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌better‌ ‌future‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌ours‌ ‌in‌ ‌VA‌ ‌Beach.”‌ ‌

African American councilman‌ ‌Aaron‌ ‌Rouse‌ ‌was‌ ‌the‌ ‌next‌ ‌speaker‌ ‌and‌ ‌gave‌ ‌a‌ ‌look‌ ‌into‌ ‌his‌ ‌past,‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌struggles‌ ‌he‌ ‌faced‌ ‌to‌ ‌arrive‌ ‌at‌ ‌where‌ ‌he‌ ‌is‌ ‌today.‌ ‌He‌ ‌reflected‌ ‌on‌ ‌his‌ ‌childhood‌ ‌and‌ ‌growing‌ ‌up‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌hard-working‌ ‌single‌ ‌mom,‌ ‌joining‌ ‌the‌ ‌First‌ ‌Colonial‌ ‌High School‌ ‌football‌ ‌team,‌ ‌and‌ ‌later‌ being‌ ‌the‌ ‌first‌ ‌person‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌family‌ ‌to‌ ‌attend‌ ‌college,‌ ‌receiving‌ ‌a‌ ‌full‌ ‌scholarship‌ ‌to‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Tech‌ ‌for‌ ‌football,‌ ‌and‌ ‌being‌ ‌drafted‌‌ by the‌ ‌Green‌ ‌Bay‌ ‌Packers‌ ‌football‌ ‌team.‌ ‌He‌ ‌ended‌ ‌his‌ ‌speech‌ by saying ‌he‌ ‌is‌ ‌proud‌ ‌of‌ ‌where‌ ‌he‌ ‌comes‌ ‌from‌ ‌and‌ ‌has‌ ‌hope‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌future.‌ ‌

The‌ ‌initiative‌ ‌took‌ ‌place‌ ‌Feb.‌ ‌6‌ ‌and‌ ‌included‌ ‌three‌ ‌separate‌ ‌categories‌ ‌with‌ ‌designated‌ times‌ ‌for‌ ‌each.‌ ‌The‌ ‌day‌ ‌started‌ ‌out‌ ‌with‌ ‌an‌ ‌opening‌ ‌session‌ ‌at‌ ‌9 ‌a.m.,‌ ‌followed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌choice‌ of‌ ‌several‌ ‌open-table‌ ‌discussions‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌topic‌ ‌of‌ ‌choice,‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌closing‌ ‌session‌ ‌that‌ ‌concluded‌ ‌at‌ noon. ‌
‌With the‌ ‌theme‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌day‌ ‌being a reflection‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌Legacy,‌ ‌Building‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌Present‌ ‌through‌ ‌persistence,‌ ‌perseverance,‌ ‌and‌ ‌pride, it‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌chance‌ ‌for‌ ‌students‌ ‌to‌ ‌lead‌ ‌with‌ ‌their‌ ‌voice,‌ foresight,‌ ‌insight,‌ ‌choice‌, ‌and‌ ‌advocacy.‌

After the first few guest speakers, the‌ ‌session‌ ‌flowed into ‌a‌ ‌panel‌ ‌discussion‌ that included ‌two‌ ‌students‌ ‌from‌ ‌different‌‌ high‌ ‌schools,‌ ‌teachers,‌ ‌and‌ ‌different‌ ‌leaders‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌community.‌ ‌Just‌ ‌a‌ ‌few‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌questions‌ ‌posed‌ ‌were,‌ ‌“What‌ ‌does‌ ‌legacy‌ ‌mean‌ ‌to‌ ‌you? ‌Describe‌ a‌ ‌time‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌experienced‌ ‌racism‌ ‌that‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌profound‌ ‌impact‌ ‌on‌ ‌you? ‌Which‌ ‌method‌ ‌of‌ ‌activism‌ ‌in‌ ‌Virginia‌ ‌Beach‌ ‌gets‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌results? ‌Describe‌ ‌the‌ ‌obstacles‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌faced‌ ‌when‌ ‌transitioning‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌leadership‌ ‌position?”‌ ‌

Each‌ ‌panelist‌ ‌gave‌ their ‌insightful‌ ‌answers‌ ‌and‌ ‌provided‌ ‌real-life‌ ‌examples‌ ‌on‌ ‌their‌ ‌experience‌ ‌with‌ ‌racism‌ ‌and‌ ‌social‌ ‌injustice‌ ‌that‌ ‌still‌ ‌exists‌ ‌today.‌ The‌ ‌next‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌initiative‌ ‌was‌ ‌breaking‌ ‌into‌ ‌different‌ ‌table‌ ‌talk‌ ‌Zoom‌ ‌rooms to discuss ‌whatever‌ ‌topic‌ ‌people ‌signed‌ ‌up‌ ‌for.‌ ‌A few of ‌the ‌options‌ ‌included‌ ‌“Standing‌ ‌Against‌ ‌Struggles. ‌Looking‌ ‌Further‌ ‌into‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Historical‌ ‌Figures. ‌African‌ ‌Americans‌ ‌in‌ ‌STEM. Honoring‌ ‌the‌ ‌Beliefs‌ ‌and‌ ‌Traditions‌ ‌of‌ ‌Culture.”‌ ‌There‌ ‌were‌ ‌also‌ ‌numerous‌ ‌choices‌ ‌for‌ ‌parents‌ ‌to‌ ‌choose‌ ‌from.‌ ‌ ‌

Lastly,‌ ‌a‌ ‌closing‌ ‌session‌ ‌took‌ ‌place‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌form‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌Webinar‌ ‌for‌ ‌closing‌ ‌remarks.‌ ‌The‌ panelist‌ ‌talked‌ ‌mostly‌ ‌about‌ racism‌ ‌that‌ ‌is‌ ‌now‌ ‌presenting‌ ‌itself,‌ ‌and‌ ‌although‌ ‌there‌ have‌ ‌been‌ ‌some‌ ‌positive‌ ‌changes,‌ ‌we‌ ‌are‌ ‌still‌ ‌a‌ ‌long‌ ‌way‌ ‌from‌ ‌acceptable.‌ ‌ ‌