Oaks Christian School celebrates Black History Month through a literary lens with special displays in both the high school and middle school libraries. The showcases feature Black authors and books and art about notable Black achievers.
Visitors to the Shiley Family Library on the high school campus will see non-fiction and fiction works by Black authors such as the epic “Roots,” by Alex Haley, and stories about ground-breakers like “Mr. Civil Rights: The Story of Thurgood Marshall,” by Nancy Whitelaw.
The library also features mini flyers with the photos and career highlights of people in the fields of entertainment, politics, sports, the military, science and the arts - retired US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, composer and band leader Duke Ellington, sociologist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois, and basketball legend Kobe Bryant, to name a few.
The book displays are a mix of classic works such as “Narrative of a Life” the 1845 memoir of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, for example, and more recent works like the 2014 “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson about the modern American criminal justice system.
OCS Head Librarian Diana Kim-Yoon creates the annual high school display as a reminder of the interwoven connections between Black culture and American history.
"I do this every year to celebrate and acknowledge Black History Month because I want our community to study and understand that Black history is American history,” she said, “You can’t separate them. We all need to see ourselves in American history, not because we are Black, Hispanic or Asian-American, but because we are all part of the story of this country.”
The display provides an opportunity for students, and faculty and staff to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the heritage, contributions, and experiences of Black Americans, historically and culturally.
In the Middle School Fardad Family Library, among the books featured are the memoirs of Condoleezza Rice, the first female, Black US secretary of state, the book “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of NASA mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, and the basketball book “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander. The library also has oversize paintings of abolitionist Douglass, and poet Maya Angelou by Middle School Art History Teacher Tricia Hacker.
“Tricia did a beautiful job on these art pieces, and together with the book displays, my hope is students will celebrate the accomplishments of these notable Black Americans,” said Middle School Librarian Amber Nungester.
When selecting which authors or works to display, Kim-Yoon looks for a variety of topics. Some of the works are well known such as “Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now” by Angelou and works by poet Langston Hughes (both Douglass and Hughes, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches I Have a Dream and Letter from Birmingham Jail and other short stories, essays and poems by Black authors are part of the regular high school literary curriculum).
But Kim-Yoon also looks for lesser-known stories with poignant messages or inspiring themes such as “brown girl dreaming,” written in 2016 by Jacqueline Woodson. She shares her story of growing up Black in South Carolina and New York in the 1970s with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
“We have many books to pull from, and I try to cover people who shaped American history, not just entertainers or sports figures, but people from different sections of life,” Kim-Yoon said.
Library Assistant Gerri Magnus helped put the displays together and even after years of working in a library, she finds she still learns interesting facts about different Black Americans like politician and civil rights activist John Lewis. She enjoys the conversations it can spark with students.
“Students see the books displayed and come over to talk about them, ask questions, and they often end up checking them out, which is exactly why we put in this effort,” Magnus said.