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How We Made Black History at Excelsior Classical Academy

I had the privilege of celebrating Black History Month with my daughter Haelee and the amazing community of Excelsior Classical Academy (Excelsior) in Durham, NC on February 29, 2024. Excelsior is a tuition-free public charter school that offers a rigorous, college-preparatory, liberal arts education. Their core values are equity, excellence, integrity, and community.

The event was organized by the Excelsior PTSO, led by Megan Cuthrell, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It featured Parker J. Jackson, a local 10-year-old author. As seen on WRAL News, Parker is the author of The First Day of School Jitters.

Haelee and I had the chance to hang out with Parker and her family, including her mom and grandma. We learned about her motivation for writing a book and how it felt to be an author and a role model. I was so proud of her for her courage and creativity, but I also noticed that she had become anxious from all of the attention to include reading her book in front of such a sizable audience. I gave her some tips that we use in Toastmasters on how to overcome anxiety and fear of public speaking, such as finding friendly faces in the crowd and focusing on them. She touched my heart when she said that she’d look for Haelee and I along with her mom and grandma in the crowd. We of course had to have her autograph and got it.

Moving along, Haelee and I had the honor of being the co-keynote speakers for the event. We talked about the Power of Resilience and Creating Your Own Moments in Black History. We shared our personal stories of triumphs and challenges, and we highlighted some of the icons that inspire us, such as Carter G. Woodson, Frederick Douglass, Rihanna, and LeBron James. We also reminded the audience that black history is not only about the past, but also about the present and the future. We told them that we were all making black history together at Excelsior, and we encouraged them to think of ways to make a positive impact on the world or their community. One of the ways we suggested was to improve their reading skills, as reading is the foundation of all intelligence and wealth. We explained that reading and writing were the keys to success for many of the black history icons we admire, such as Carter G. Woodson and Frederick Douglass.

The event also showcased the amazing artwork of the students and faculty, who created flip charts, drawings, and posters that celebrated black history figures such as Dr. Mae Jemison, Granville T. Woods, Angela Davis, and many more. The most impressive part was that they also created a Periodic Table of Black History that connected them all.

We’re so grateful to the Excelsior PTSO for inviting us to be part of such an incredible celebration. It was literally the best birthday present I’ve ever received.

Now we want to hear from you, who is your favorite black history icon and why? Write us back and share your thoughts.

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