Voices

The Beauty, Struggle, and Resilience of Black History
​​​​​​​Matthew Oakland, upper school associate teacher and admissions assistant
 

Black history. So much beauty, struggle, resilience, fortitude, oppression, cultural richness, and triumph sits within all that this term entails. As well, within a nuanced understanding of Black history (speaking specifically to the U.S. Black experience), comes an awareness of the failures and purposeful incongruencies of our nation’s democratic project. A land supposedly oriented towards equality for all, but still grappling with many forms of increasing inequity. A land where all are promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but wherein many of our citizens are marginalized from any true sense of opportunity. Black History is both a veil to see the indomitable power of the human spirit and the ability of the most marginalized to make magic out of little to nothing, as much as a mirror for our own imperfections as members of this diverse community we call the United States. 

So what does Black History Month mean to me? It is as much a celebration of my history—through figures like Assata Shakur, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, the Combahee River Collective, Bayard Rustin, Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X—as it is a needed reminder that such traditions live on. That inequity—often inequities that have stemmed from our nation’s past systems of oppression (see: slavery → convict leasing → Jim Crow → War on Drugs → mass incarceration of mainly Black and Brown folk)—are still present in our contemporary context, and still just as important to confront.

Given this, to a certain extent, I actually struggle with the term Black history. In terms of its connotative meaning, “Black history” sounds like something relegated to the past. That these things have already happened, and as such are worth studying, but not to the extent of implementing more critical analysis and/or creating a more radical praxis based on such knowledge. Or, that Black history is only the study of crystallized moments like Tulsa 1921 or Trayvon Martin 2012, which obscures how our contemporary forms of systemic racism are undergirded by centuries-old, ever-evolving, systems of oppression.

So when I think of Black history, I don’t think of a static past or of solely abhorrent moments of human disregard; instead, I think of a vibrant and alive repository of knowledge, of protest, of civil disobedience, of music, of celebration. I think about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ways that such organizing has propelled conversations around police brutality, equity, and forms of racism to the forefront of our national consciousness. I think about Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Parliament Funkadelic, Billie Holliday, Al Green, Janele Monáe, James Brown, and the multiplicity of Black artists that situate themselves within the tradition of radically creative and socially-conscious oriented artists. I think about cookouts, long days sitting in the sun and laughing with friends and family (and people who are such close friends you call them aunt and uncle anyway). I think of videos of #Blackjoy. I think of using sage and herbs to ward off evil in a house, windows and doors flung open, to bring in light. I think of my mom, who, on days without much in the fridge, could create a dish so delectable you would think she had made it hundreds of times before (maybe it was already within her?). These are the moments, memories, banks of knowledge, my own form of collective consciousness, that I consider to be Black History. 

So, to raise the central question again: What does Black History Month mean to me? It is the realization that the past, present, and future are constantly interconnected, and that traditions and magic and resilience live within my DNA. It is radically envisioning the futurities that will contain possibility and positivity and prosperity for Black people, and all those who continue to be marginalized. It means fighting on the side of freedom; being not just non-racist, but anti-racist. Black History Month is alive. Black History Month means there is no freedom, until we are all free.



Read More

Find Your Spot Under the Stairs

I started at Nueva when you were in 10th grade, but we didn’t really know each other. I taught 11th and 12th and to me, you were the group of kids who hung out under the second-floor stairs.

A Rising Generation Seeking to Understand the World

History for me has always been, at root, a lens to view the present as temporary and malleable rather than fixed and timeless. In preparing this speech, I found myself less interested in dispensing wisdom from my own life’s experiences and more drawn to the wisdom that comes from new eyes looking at the world as it should be.

Community

I want you to imagine that it’s a cool August in the year 2017. You lie awake in bed, filled to the brim with burning questions about your new high school, Nueva.

Fifth-Grade Travel Week: A Deep-Dive Into Pueblo Culture

Fifth grader Raya I. shares her reflections on travel week, taking readers through the history of the Pueblo people and the activities and lessons she and her classmates engaged in to better understand their rich culture and heritage. 

Reflections on Riding the Bus

Wondering what it's been like to ride the bus this year? Students share what's been different during the pandemic and what they enjoy most about their bus-riding experience. (Video footage by eighth-grader Tatiola S.)

An Open Letter to My Students in Response to Racist Hate Crimes

As a first-generation Asian immigrant, I have experienced very complicated emotions about the recent news. Every day for the past year, whether I was walking, shopping, or taking out the garbage, anti-Asian news stories have been in my head, reminding me to be careful. I am a mother, teacher, Taiwanese, American, friend, aunt, sister, daughter—but I have never felt my identity as an Asian immigrant so consciously.

Maverick Mickey Shiloh ’06 on the Power of a Nueva Education

From Janet Jackson to Britney Spears to J.Lo, songwriter and recording artist Mickey Shiloh ’06 has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business. Now the CEO of a game-changing record label, Mickey shares how her Nueva education (and the financial awards that made it possible) shaped her life.