In New York City, you don’t have to look very far to find exceptional organizations and individuals celebrating Black joy and history on a daily basis. In February, we were honored and excited to partner with experts from the Mama Foundation, Big Onion Tours, National Jazz Museum in Harlem, New York Historical Society, and Urban Bush Women to launch a series of special events exploring Black history, music, and culture. While Success Academy’s curriculum examines and celebrates the contributions of Black Americans every month, these weekly sessions for scholars and families have been particularly special and informative — and we are thankful for the opportunity to celebrate Black History Month together.
We connected with Leah Charles-Edouard of the New York Historical Society Education Department, Seth Kamil of Big Onion Walking Tours, and Kendra J. Ross of Urban Bush Women to learn more about their programming, the importance of their work, and the reasons they were excited to partner with Success Academy.
Urban Bush Women
Urban Bush Women (UBW) seeks to bring the untold and under-told stories to light through dance. We do this from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond. Although we are in new challenging times, it is important that we keep learning together and move forward in cultivating a society of equity and anti-racism. These efforts, which are often highlighted during Black History Month, should be ongoing, and we must be steadfast — even while working and learning remotely.
Dance is the essential element of our programs — and dance has the power to articulate ideas and emotions in a way that can be more impactful and longer lasting than words. We are not only interested in audiences viewing the dance — we invite them to use their own bodies to further the discovery and learning through embodiment. We work to cultivate the next generation of artists and activists who will continue bringing attention to and addressing issues of equity in the dance field and throughout the United States; we know Success Academy scholars will be the next generation of changemakers who can continue the work and make strides we cannot even yet imagine.
Motto: Get Bushified! Is the unofficial motto of Urban Bush Women. This is because we invite folks to travel out into the “wilderness” a bit with us for the sake of learning, growing, reflecting, and making the world better.
— Kendra J. Ross, UBW BOLD Coordinator
Big Onion Walking Tours
Our tours offer the wonderful opportunity to engage in micro-history and tie specific places, people, and events to big ideas. For example, we are not just discussing the Underground Railroad in New York; we are taking students to a specific place and talking with them about the Underground Railroad at this location in a specific moment in time. History comes alive when it is directly touchable by students.
In this era of remote learning, we see ourselves as recreating, in a new and unique way, the field trips that are being missed right now. At the same time, because we are all virtual, we are able to “travel” between ideas and places in a way we could never do before. Black History Month is a 28-day celebration of the breadth and depth of Black history and its centrality and importance in America and beyond. But the history and achievements of Black people need to be better integrated into the daily study and understanding of the past and present every day — not just 28 days a year. We know Success Academy shares our efforts on this front.
In our partnership with SA, it is really wonderful to work with so many students who are eager to learn and also have such a strong educational foundation. Since they are here, in New York City, we can connect big history ideas with specific places they either have visited or can visit. We live here too; it is very rewarding to share the history of the city we love with them.
Motto: Peeling away the layers of history. We are called “Big Onion Walking Tours,” in part, as a metaphor for New York. Brush off the slight layer of dirt and the history peels away like the layers of an onion.
— Seth Kamil, President & Co-Founder of Big Onion Walking Tours and Director of Big Onion Historical Consulting
New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society provides a way for students to engage with primary source historical materials from our collection that they usually would not get the chance to investigate. This inquiry-based approach to teaching sparks students’ curiosity about the past and gives them concrete practice using primary sources to investigate and answer questions that interest them — the work that real historians do.
It is important to do everything we can to support student learning right now, and that includes pivoting to bring our materials to students in a remote setting. Black History Month is especially important because Black history is American history. As we teach students to think like historians, we want them to know that it is our collective responsibility to tell Black stories and to fight against the erasure of Black history from the narrative of American history. Black students must see themselves in history, not just in traumatic situations but triumphantly contributing to our shared heritage through perseverance, activism, and joy. It’s also critically important for non-Black students to learn the history of their Black classmates so that they can grow up as allies and fight against the racism that we’re still dealing with today.
We love partnering with Success Academy because we have the opportunity to work with students from neighborhoods all across the city. Not many other schools have such a far reach, so that’s an exciting prospect.
Motto: Because History Matters. This is our motto because understanding our past is critical to understanding our present and future.
— Leah Charles-Edouard, Senior Manager of the Academy for American Democracy at New-York Historical Society